Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TR: Vegas Week 2009 (Oct 4-10, 2009)

TR: Vegas Week
October 4 - 10, 2009
Las Vegas, NV

I probably comes as little surprise to anybody that we did a Vegas Week again this year. At least it took us till April to think about doing Vegas week, instead of thinking about it at Christmas. Since it was already April, and May was going to be a bad month at work for me anyway, we decided to see what Vegas is like in October, after all, all our other visits have been in May. I did recall what we learned last year, and did not use Travelocity to make the arrangements, instead making my own arangements directly with the airline and hotel. As such after landing a $250 per person non stop round trip airline deal out of Cincinnati, and then landing rooms for $300 each for a week, right away we are only spending about half of what we did last year. I think if I could go back in time, I would have had us leave Friday night instead of spending the exorbitant Friday night room rates, then flying out first thing in the morning. I followed that up by getting us two tickets to see KA, which would be this years Cirque Du Soleil show, and I even scored a "Buy 1 get 1 for $25 deal from the Cirque Club. I'm saving a bunch of money already off of last year's arangements. Oh, and those discounted seats are in Row C of the orchestra level, not bab, in fact might even be a bit too close.

Okay, so between April and OCtober, Delta managed to meess around with both of my flight times, due to trimming down their schedule. I didn't really mind what they did to my return flight, moving it from 9AM to noon, however any brownie points they gained for that were lost by moving my flight to Vegas from a nice 4PM which would have gotten us in in the early evening to 8PM which meant we were getting in a night. We decided to try to further cut costs by having an uncle who was not going with us to drive us to the airport and aback, thus savin the long term parking fees.

So advance forward to the day of the trip, we decided to leave for my uncles house an hour early, after all he would do the same to us. We got to my Uncle's house, and they insisted on watching the Bengals game (it was vs. Cleveland you know, big rivalry game), and they finally relented when the game went into overtime. Then it was time to get in the car. There were 5 of us going, and we thougt we could stuff my cousin in the back with the luggage, at least just to get to the airport. However, that did not work out in the uncle who was staying back's Equinox, but ti would work in the uncle who was going's Explorer. Okay, that just means the non-traveling uncle would take us to the airport, then double back and change cars again, a little inconvineint but you do what you have to do. We thought about bailing on the plans to go to Cracker Barrel and hit a fast food place instead, but in the end wound up going to Cracker Barrel and as luck would have it, getting the slowest server they had. We didn't arrive at the airport late, we arrived at 6m, which was exactly 2 hours before our flight, so we got their just at the recommended time. Any cushion we tried to build up was gone.

I wqas happy that this year, the airlines on line system actually let us check in over the web, and pay the baggage fees over the web. So, we got to the airport, and all we had to do was show passes and ID's then drop our bags off. A bag claim decal was placed on each boarding pass, and then since we also learned from last year, I had requested wheelchair assistance for me. She can still walk, but long distances such as airports are a problem. Not a big deal they direct you to wait in a seating area by the ticketing counter, and then a staff person comes out and actually pushed the person all the way to their gate. Sometimes this can really help as they get to cut to the front of the security line, but that would not be a problem today as security was a walk up. Security was mostly painless, they wanted to scan my carry on bag twice, and then the TSA guy called out my name and we realized we had worked together at a former job. That done, I'm wlaways much relieved to be through security and we got to our gat eright around 7pm, which is just enough time to sit down and relax before boarding started at 7:30.

Soon we boarded the plane, and in flight entertainment has really changed. I used to get happy just to hear there would be an in flight movie, now I am bummed out if I'm not in a plane with the personal in seat entertainment system. Such as this plane, no in seat entertainment, wifi, or free meal on this flight. 4 hours is just about my limit before I go insane on a flight, but I better get used to it as I have two more trans atlantic segments already booked for next year. I'm guessing Delta sends the rolling concession stand down the aisle once for every 2 hours of shceduled flight time, on our way to Vegas the flight was 4 and a quarter hours and they came through twice. The first time I just got a Coke and pretzels, the second time I splurged for a $2 pack of peanut M&M's, cookies, and a coke. Other than that the flight was uneventful, and when we arrived in Vegas, they had a wheelchair attendant waiting on the jetway. This was a big help as he escorted us all the way from the jetway to the baggage claim, and then out to the taxi stand. We didn't even have time for airport slots, and yes their airport is lined with slot machines. We got lucky that our bags were some of the first off the plane, and we were soon waiting in line to even get out the door. They have crossing gates so at times the line just to get out of the airport backs up. We then got into a minivan cab and took the ride to New York New York. Yes, we got Tunneled, and somehow the ride from the airport to the hotel was like $23.

At New York New York, we walked from the doors to the hotel registration desk, and hit it at a good time as it was practially a walk right up line. Our desk agent was pleasant and we got some room upgrades and such. By the time we had our keys and were heading back to the ones who were watching oveer the luggage there was a crowd at the hotel check in area. Well, we didn't quite get adjacent rooms, in fact we don't even ride up in the same elevator. Mom and I were in the Century tower, and those elevators are near the hotel desk. We rode up to the 24th floor, and found our room just two doors down from the elevator, with a view looking out towards the strip facing the Tropicana, so nice view, and nicely furnished room. the iPod docking station in our room didn't quite like my iPhone, but no sweat I did bring a charger. These rooms seemes a bit larger than the rooms at Luxor, at the very least the bathroom was much nicer and had a real tub. After getting settled into our room we met the others back down on the gaming floor.

Early reports from the other room is that their room elevators were by the food court, and while they had a jumbo sized corner room, it was also about a mile from the elevators. We'll keep what we have, even though there room is technically one category higher. We headed to the players club desk so that those who needed to get cards could get cards, and those due free play could redeam that. We played around a bit at New York New York. Mom got the first good spin witha $250 hit on a quarter machine.

Ricky and I decided to take a walk. What we wound up doing was quite similar to what we did on our final day of last year's Vegas Week. We started out by walking to the Bellagio, we noted the consturction project between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio was still happeining but it looks to be nearly finished. We played around a bit at the Bellagio and Rick checked out their poker room. By te poker room they had advertisements printed on playing card sized cards, an dI noticed they were using dealers shoes to pass them out. Okay, I lost at New York New York, but I held my own, even had a tiny profit at Bellagio. We then left Bellagio and walked across the street using one of the few street level crossings to Planet Hollywood. Our main reason for going into Planet Hollywood was to visi the Pleasure Pit. That is a table games area with suggestively dressed dancers that dance on little platforms above the gaming tables, while skimpily clas dealers deal the cards. I noted they even have one carousel of Pleasure Pit slot machines, bu thtye face away from the dancers, so what is the point. We played awhile in Planet Hollywood and it wasn't too kind to me. However, one of the neat things about going to Vegas is they have slot machines that we just don't have at the Indiana casinos, both new and old, and the jackpots are much higher. Even better, they have more machines, so all the games you can never get on at the boats, you can walk right up to here in Vegas.

Around 3 or 3:30 we finally leave Planet Hollywood, I am glad to see shops, restaurants and stuff have filled in the area between Planet Hollywood and MGM Grand so the area is a little less scary at night. We did stop into McDonalds for a quick buit to eat with some interesting characters and $8 value meals. We id head to the MGM Grand but did not go in, instead we walked up the stairs, crossed the road and headed back to New York New York. I can already see I like not having the extra commute to Luxor. We played a bit in New York New York then I finally roll into my hotel room around 5am.

At 8am Monday, I am getting woken up. What, only thre ehours sleep? Well that's what I get. wWe get up, get ready, and then hearing the buffet breakfast in our own hotel is $13 we head to McDonalds at the Excalibur. Okay, we were going to check out their buffet but the line was a bit oo long owing to the all you can eat all day deal they have going on. That is the newest gimmick in Vegas all-day buffet wrisbtbands for about $25-$30. You can't possibly eat that much, and they keep you at or near their casino all day. After breakfast, we head to Luxor and play (and I lose) for quite a while. At least the Luxor construction is completed, so the high limit room and poker room have returned to their rightful spots, and the Cirque Du Soleil theater area is renovated.

When we had our fill of Luxor, we walked out front and were surprised to find the monorail running, so we rode the free monorail to the Excalibur. I note the monroail station isn't quite as heavy handed about forcing you into the casino as it used to be. That said we played around awhile, and I won a bit at the Excalibur. Then we headed to the Tropicana, and remember what I said about mom and long distance walking, well that was about when it decided to bother her. We did try the free pull slot machine out front and each won a deck of cards and $10 in free slot play after signing up for cards. Tropicana has way too few people working their slot club counter, particularly since the guy running the free slot machine can crank through way more players than they can process in, and you have to be processed in to get your free gifts. I hear waits of a half hour for a card are not uncommon. They also still hav etheir $50 of slot play for $20 gimmick machines, no one goes home empty handed even if you lose it all you get a merchandise prize obstenisbly worth $20. We saw no takers. We played a bit at Tropicana, and then headed to New York New York.

We headed right for the food course and determined Broadway Burger was still open and still sellls large bacon double burgers, fries (maybe a bit scaled back) and a Pepsi for $7.50 (was $6) It is still a great deal fr a fast food dinner. Rick wants to watch Monday night foodball, which out in Vegas is Monday afternoon football. I play fora pit in New York New York, then go up to the room to get a rest in, we have another long night planned.

We decided I would go to Rick's room to meet, and on the way there I make the mistake of stopping off for a slice of pizza that they had been raving about. No, its not that, it was great pizza in the Italian "fold and eat" thin crust tradition. Then I go meat Rick and we decide to head to Paris. We get there by first walking through the MGM Grand to the monorail station, and then after paying $5 each are boarding a monorail train. Now the Paris would be the very next station, but that wouldn't be much of a ride, so we decide to ide all the way to the Sahara and back to catch theview of Vegas at night, as much as you can since it goes in back of the strip hotels. We got off the train at the Paris/Ballys station, and like most stations it is a long haul from the station to the casino, then we find out we are in Ballys, at this point Rick suggest stopping off for some pizza at Sbarros, see what I mean about the first pizza stop being a mistake?

We then take the incredibly long walk throught the shopping area into Paris. We don't acutally play much, if any, in Paris, instead we head to the Tour Eiffel, or Eiffel Tower experience. I find out that at night it is $15 instead of the ususal $10. We decide to cough it up anyway, and I notice things have changed since last year, now both escalators flanking the gift shop are entrances, the difference is one costs $15 to use, and the other $22, the $22 entrance has VIP rights, but at the current time the line wasn't even back to the merge point. At least this setup means you don't have two way traffic where they are taking your souvenir photo. We had a one elevator wait to go to the top of the half scale model tower. Up top the obseervstion deck was crammed beyond belief. Didn't stop me from getting some great night shots, or us enjoying the view but it sure was crowded. As an added bonus, we got to watch the Bellagio fountan show from up high, and don't know if they pipe the music over or not, but we had no probem hearing the soundtrack. After the Bellagio show we headed back down, and now they unload you right into the casino.

From Paris, we went to the doorman to get a cab to the Rio. The Paris casino doorman gets demerits for not at least mentioning the courtesy shuttle to the Rio. We didn't spend that long in the Rio, the big poker room was already closed, so Rick didn't get to see that, and the casino was pretty lifeless, and they were changing out machines and all. A lot of folks swer by the Rio, but it just seemed to be lifeless when we were there. Another quick cab ride and we were over at the Palms. The Palms was equally lifeless and soon we decided to just go back to New York New York particularly since we were losng and we could not get a cocktail server at the Rio or Palms to save our soul, even if they were dead and lifeless. Our taxi ride from the Palms to New York New York was noteworthy in that cab had the loudest squealing brakes known to man. We get back to New York New York, play for a litle bit but eventually decide to go up to the room a bit early, gotta get some sleep sometime.

We slept in a bit on Tuesday, then Mom and I headed down to get some lunch. We decided to try the America restaurant in the New York New York. America, is as you can guess a partriotic themed restaurant done up in red, white and blue, flags, decorations and the like. The main feature of the decoration package is a big mural map of the Unites States, what is so cool about it is it hangs down from the ceiling, and is in 3D. For example in St. Louis, there is a model of the St. Louis arch that poked out of the mural. The theme is even carried down to the table where drinks can be served in a souvenier Statue of Liberty glass, and the back of the bar, appeteizer and desert menu has a page or two on US trivia. Following the theme, the menu is mostly good old fashioned comfort food, I had a BBQ chicken sandwich and mom had the club. both were big sandwhiches with a mound of fries each. Tab for two with alcohol, tax and tip was around $40. After we had lunch we decided to walk the Las Vegas Strip.

To faciliate my Mom's enjoyment of the strip, we learned since we were guests of the hotel, we could rent a wheelchair from the hotel for a nominal fee, if you are not a hotel guest your rental is limited to just the casino grounds. Having secured a chair, we headed up out of New York ew York, over the bridge towards the MGM Grand but we did not go inside, instead we caught the elevator down to the street then proceeded to head north.

You first pass a few strip malls (as opposed to strip clubs...) that contain the usual tacky souvenir shops, restaurants, and stuff. The first one is best known for having M&M World and Coke World, along with a movie theater, Gameworks, half price show kiosk and a food court. We hit this last year so we pretty much avoided the shopping centers and headed for Planet Hollywood Casino. Along the way we did stop to look at New York New York, Monte Carlo, and City Center from the other side of the street.

We then went into Planet Hollywood, our main purpose was to show off the Pleasure Pit, but while the hot pink gaming tables were there, the area was closed and the girls that make the area so special were not on duty. We played a very little bit at Planet Hollywood before continuing. It should be noted there are three speedramps in front of the Plant Hollywoo, all going up, there isn't even a ramp, so we had to back track to the other end of the casino to get to the street. According to Wiki, changes were made to improve pedestrian access from the strip, so I'd hate to see the former arrangements. What I do miss is the former Aladin theming when it was one of the themed resorts. I notice resorts that are decorated with arabesque touches are dwindling, I think only the Sahara remains in that regard.

We headed next door to Paris, now I had shown this one to Mom last year, and to Ricky the night before. The rest hadn't seen it with all its faux outdoor sky and parisian street feel, complete with the legs of the Eiffel Tower coming up through the casino. We rested and played a while in Paris, and while there Ricky tried Casino War. Remember the card game War you played as a child, it was probably a simple game your parents taught you and your sibling to get you out of their hair for a long time as the game is incredibly simple to play, yet seems to go on for hours or until you give up and just count who has the most cards when you got tired of it. It's almost a forerunner to the customizable collectible card games as I can remember games lasting several days, and being protective of your part of the deck between sessions . Well not the casinos have discovered it, maybe after it was used as joke in the movie Vegas Vacation. Anyway, the game is real stupid out in Vegas, You sit down and toss a chip on the table, the dealer deals two cards, one to you, one to himself. If your card is higher (aces always high), you get paid even money, if not you lose, unless you War. Getting a tie lead you to war, you can either surrender the war, and lose half your bet in the process, or go to war. Going to war requires you to post a second bet identical to your first, and the house does the same. So if you started with a bet of 1 chip, there are now 3 out on the table. Just like the kiddie card game, three cards are dealt and burned, and the fourth card upbecomes your new card. Winner takes all three stacks. I hear their is slight bonus of 8-1 or 10-1if your war ends in a tie. The catch, if you didn't get it is all in the war, if you win the war you essentially win $1 for every $2 you put up, but if you lose the war you lose all your stake. That's where the house edge comes from. Insanely stupid. And they use a continuous shuffle machine with 6 decks, so any kind of card counting is out the window.

From Paris, we walked past but did not stop in Bally's, particularly since the moving sidewalks from the strip were out of order, and its a long walk. Views of the Bellagio and Ceasars Palace coming into view across the street.

One of the safety minded features of Vegas is the building of overhead bridges with complete ADA access with elevators, escalators and stairs, followed closely by laws mandating their use when available along with walls and fences to further encourage their use. We crossed over the street and looked through the victorian themed Bill's Gambling Hall. It's a small dinky casino but is part of the solid wall of Harrah's owned casinos that I think stretches clear from Paris all the way to Harrah's Much the same as MGM/Mirage owns most of the places on the other side of the street, with the gaping exception of Ceasar's Palace.

We didn't linger long in Bill's before stopping in the Flamingo for a while. I mean now we are getting closer to old Vegas, the Flamingo is a name that has been around for a long time. After having our fill of the Flamingowe proceeded on past the dink Osheas casino (Irish theme), and also bypassing the pagoda of the Imperial Palace. Imperial Palace sets back off the strip, and its access from the strip has all the charm of a dark alley. It doesn't help I have also heard the word Dump used to describe it. Instead we took a short trip through the New Orleans/Mardi Gras themed Harrahs. Harrahs has a clever tactic, the sidewalk bends inward to obstensibly allow for the ramps to their parking garage, and they have taken full advantage by putting a popular club in the center and routing the sidewalk so its easier to walk through the casino than stay on the sidewalk.

We came to the Venetian, themed after Venice. A big pool out front has gondolas, the Dodges Palace, bell tower, rialto bridge, San Marcos all figure into the facade. We tried to get Rick and Wanda to take a romantic gondola ride, but that didn't happen. We were then further dismayed at the lack of wheelchair accesibility. The only way in seemed to be a small 'service entrance' from the overhead street connector. We spent some time in the Venetian and its sister casino the Pallazo, joined by a high end shopping area. It was a fun time, including the slot machine that decided it didn't like us and gave both Rick and I a nice shock. Ouch, that wasn't nice.

After leaving the Palazzo, we crossed the bridge over to the Wynn, but did not go in. We instead decided to turn around, so we crossed the bridge over to Fashion Show Mall, walked past Nieman Marcus to get to the bridge over to Treasure Island. Treasure Island is one of those casinos that is losing all its interior theming. It seems like casinos like to keep the fantasy facades, but inside they all present the same modern looking neutral color based gaming areas. We didn't spend much time in Treasure Island, but went outside to look at the pirate ships in the caribean style port area where the Sirens on TI show takes place. We also learned we were an hour or more away from the first show.

Moving right along, we came to the Mirage. We didn't go into the Mirage, but upon learning we were about 10 minutes away from the eruption, we gathered along the rail by the volcano to experience a Volcanic Eruption, a show based on water, fire, lights and music. First the volcano simmers and smokes, then smal l flames shoot out, then larger flames, then torches in the lagoon light up so it looks like the whole lagoon is on fire, then the blast gets bigger and bigger until it lights up the sky. It gets a bit toasty standing by the rail with those flame effects going on.

After the volcano show, we headed to the Forum Shops where we rode the spiral escalators before heading to the back of the mall to try to watch the statue show, but we were almost an hour away from showtime. Four visits and four failures to see this show. One of these years I am going to see it. We headed to Ceasar's Palace for dinner at their buffet style restaurant. It was a bit pricey, but you got good carved meats, prime rib, sushi, and a whole lot of fancy things. When we thought we had seen it all they brought out trays of crab legs and shrimp. A nice touch is they went with the bite sized sampler deserts.

After dinner, we headed out of Ceasar's Palace and took the walk to the Bellagio. This is where we restedafter dinner playing at the Bellagio for awhile. After leaving Bellagio, we took the real long walk through the contruction tunnel past City Center, skipped the Monte Carlo and headed to the New York New York where we stopped and played some more.

After getting mom settled into her room, Ricky and I took another evening walk, we looked at Coyote Ugly, but it was packed like sardines, playing the same crap DJ dance music you hear all over. We headed to the MGM Grand played for probably too long, then went back to our rooms. Exciting evening, I know.

Wednesday is my day with Mom, to be headlined by watching "KA" by Cirque Du Soleil at the MGM Grand Mom and I started the day a bit late by heading to the Denny's a few doors down from the MGM Grand right around 11:30. I miss Denny's as they are now gone from our area, but they always have done a good breakfast.

After Denny's we headed back to the MGM Grand, making a couple stops along the way. Our first stop was the Coca Cola shop. The first floor is the general gift shop where all manner of Coca Cola merchandise can be had, but that's not why I'm here. We go to the second floor where they have soda fountain in the back of the store. The feature item here is the "Coke around the world" sampler package. For $7 they give you about an 8-10 oz cup of 16 different drinks made by the Coca Cola company throughout the world.

I was honestly thinking they would give us maybe a shot glass or double shot full of each one, but trust me when I say to get about 3-4 of your friends around before you do this. The drinks come to you on two cafeteria trays with numbered sections, they also give you a drink guide so you can tell which numbered glass is which drink.

On the day I was there the sampler included: Inca Cola (Peru), Sunfill Mint (India), Stoney Ginger Beer (South Africa), Aquarius Citrus (Taiwan), Delaware Punch (USA), Vegitabeta (Japan), Smart Watermelon (China, Kinley Lemon (England), Lift Apple (Mexico), Fanta Kolita (Costa Rica), Krest Gingerale(Mozambique), Bibo Kiwi Mango (South Africa), Bibo Pine Nut (South Africa), Smart Apple (China), Beverly (Italy), and Mezzo Mix (Germany). I mention the list since I have read other reviews and it sounds like the menu changes regularly.

We tried the lot of them, acting like wine fantics, first smelling each drink to determine smell, swishing it around to determine carbonation, then drinking a little of it.

Most of them are to be quite, frank, just flat out wierd. The mint soda tastes like mouthwash, the Aquarius Citrus reminded us of a bold flavored Fresca, Delaware Punch is basically grape juice,Vegitabeta is basically orange gatorade, one oddity is we love all things Waterlmelon, so of course Mom disliked the Smart Watermelon. One of the Apple sodas is just like Jones Sour Apple, Pine Nut is an odd one, its a coconut flavored drink. I forget which one it is now (and I'm not talking about Beverly, but getting past the smell of the drink was an issue. Then there is Beverly, Beverly has gained quite the reputation as possibly the foulest soft drink ever created. Let's just say in a masochistic moment, I reconfirmed that, even though I have had it at Epcot. All in all, it wasn't a bad way to kill some time. One last comment about their place, they were good enough to have a restroom right by the soft drink sampling area, but they thought one one urinal would suffice for the men's room. After 16 soft drink samples, really?

After our soft drink sampling, we went down in the Coca Cola elevator, its a glass elevator in the shape of a giant Coke bottle. We then headed next door to take the tour of M&M World. Yes, we came out with another insanely expensive bag of mix-it-yourself candy.

We then headed to the MGM Grand. Our first order of business was to go all the way to the back of the casino and pick up our show tickets. That is one of Vega s's anti-scalping measures,wanting you to pick up show tickets, in person, day of show. Then they make you produce the confirmation letter, an ID, and the credit card used to buy the tickets. Recall last year, I had trouble at the Bellagio when they took my 7:00 reservation, and put it in their system as a 10:30 reservation. This year, no such trouble existed and in 30 seconds or less I had my tickets. We spent the next few hours playing at the MGM Grand.

We had heard we should be there an hour early, so around 5:50 we head to the doors for the 7 pmshow. We are greeted by an usher who appreicates the punctuality and enthusiasm, and then lets us know the doors won't be opening until 6:20 tonight. I suspect this is due to the fact the show appeared to be less than half full. Time to play some more slots.

On our way in, we stop at the usual sales table to get our $15 program book and then our ticket is scanned. As we travel through the lobby area, we notice this isn't quite like any other theater, instead the lobby appears as if you are traveling through a tribal villiage at night on the way to a celebration. The "tavern" is open, and that contains your bar and concession stand. We had gotten there just after the doors opened, and of course everybody dashes right to the next set of doors. They tried to encourage people to get their snacks early reminding them all seats are reserved, there is no need to rush. The staff in this area discourages the use of the term "usher", instead they are villiagers welcoming you to the celebration. We passed and talked with several friendly viliagers and upon showing them our tickets they all commented we had fantastic seats, but worried if my Mom could get down the stairs to them.

You line up at the town gates to enter the ceremonial area, and at about 6:30there is a brief moment when a town crier type person calls out "Open the gates!" You then head in the doors and up a curved rampup to the theater. The way the theater is arranged is both entrances lead to ramps thatgo up to a walkway that crosses the house from left to right about halfway back. The seating is stadium style, so you go up or down from there. As we would learn our seats were in the second row. The good news is the stairs are pretty shallow, and there are railings all the way down. We checked the wheelchair and recieved a claim check and then the usher type person helped us down to our seats. We wound up being seating next to a couple from the Seattle area if I recall correctly. Real friendly people As we were waiting for the show another usher type person omes to our section and I guess one of the benefits of sitting up close is they talk to you about the show and do questions and answers. The couple next to us are big theater buffs, so the conversation was real interesting. This staff members other job is to inform the people sitting in the front row of the "Front Row Rules" Essentially, there is no traditional stage, just a barrier separating the audience from a deep pit, so stay in your seats and don't approach the barrier. All during the load in a fireball would erupt from the pit. The safety warning was obstensibly about the fire effects, but strangely once the show started there were no more fireballs.

They do a funny take on the usual house rules. Essentially they talk about no cameras, and of course somebody starts taking pictures, so the host tosses their camera into the firepit with a small explosion, then they say no mobile phones, and of course somebody gets a phone call, so now their phone goes flying into the fire pit. By the end of it, they throw the obnoxious 'guest' into the firepit to a big explosion.

The KA theate looks like no other theater you have seen. Cirque has always been on the cutting edge of stage technology, even in their tent shows, but imaging Cirque with the seemingly bottomless pockets of a Las Vegas casino funding them. I already mentioned the town village lobby, but inside the house, instead of the sides of the theatre being plain walls, they have an intricateseries of metal platforms that the actors use as either an extension of the stage, or a rigging to do aerial acts. The star of the show is the stage, or lack thereof. There is no traditional stage, instead there are several movable platforms. When I say movable platform, I mean a platform on the ends of robot arms, it can raise, lower, turn, spin, tip, even tip up from a horizontal orientation to a vertical orientation. Yes, it can still spin even in the vertical orientation. This is in addition to having manholes in the stage that can open and close, and numerous "pegs" that can project out of the stage surface to provide handholds to the performers when the stage is vertical. The surface is also a LCD projection, but not only that, it is interactive and can respond to the performers movement. The technology doesn't end with the stage, every seat in the theater has its own speakers for the ultimate in surround sound, and we learned our close up seats also recline to allow us to see the high up parts of the show.

The storyline is your basic tribal celebration ruined by the attack of a rival tribe, leading to a show that is essentially the battle between the two, and of course the tribe you are visiting wins. Highlights of the show include a scene where they are trying to stay on a small boat that is tossing and turning in the sea, a slow scene where they are on the sandy beach leading to a moment where the platform covered in sand tips up vertical dumping the sand in a big sandshower, an aerial act in the middle of the show that just has so much going on its sensory overload, their take on the traditional circus "Wheel of Death", a scene where they appear to be climbing up a sheer cliff face, in this scene the archers are shooting arrows at the wall, whch covers the "pegs" shooting out from the wall to form handholds. The interactive LCD systems allowsyou to see the rock face crumbling as they climb. Towards the end of the show there s a a full battle scene while the stage is full vertical, and they are moving about this spining sheer vertical wall effortlessly. The finale even includes indoor pyro effects. I'm going to rank this Cirque second only to "O" at Bellagio. My full cirque list is: "O","KA", "Quidam"," Corteo", " Saltimbanco" in order of preference.

So after the show we claimed the chair as instucted, and headed to the KA Gift Shop. On the way out of the theater the staff checks the claim checks on all wheelchairs leaving the theater. On the way out they were pushing the ultimate KA gift pack:program, soundtrack CD, and making of DVD - for $65. The couple next to us highly recommended the DVD,and I found they were willing to give me credit for the already purchased program, so I could complete the set for $50 more. I then got a KA t-shirt from the gift shop. Yes, it was a very expensive night at the theatre.

On the way out of the MGM Grand, I showed mom an old Sigma Derby mechanical horse racing game. It's one of those novelty games they keep around since they have more casino floor space than they know what to do with. We headed out of the MGM Grand, returned to New York New York, then returned the wheelchair, then played some at NYNY. Ricky asked meif I wanted to go to a club, but I declined. I would later found out he didn't enjoy the club either. Too high of a cover charge, crap music, too crowded, drinks too high, etc.

Thursday came,and I started the day with an alone day. First I got up and then headed over the Exclaibur for a breakfast buffet. Sure its around $15,but you have a breakfast bar that can't be improved upon. They had at least three styles of scrambled eggs, burrittos, fresh fruit, all the standards, pastries, omlettes. It was a great way to start the day. I then walked over the Luxor manly to cash a $80 ticket I had forgotten to cash on Monday. It seems while you can port slot club points between the two casinos, you have to take cashout tickets to the issuing casino to be paid. Of course I wound up playing a bit at Luxor before walking out front to be on the first monorail of the day over to Excalibur. I played a little bit more on my way through the Excalbur and headed to the MGM Grand.

When I got to the MGM Grand I headed to the back of the casino into the shopping mall area, and then all the way to the back of the shopping area to where CSI: The Experience had opened less then a month prior to my visit. As I approached the area two greeters dressed as CSI officers have an information table out in front of the entrance, and I learned you buy tickets at the MGM Garden Arena box office. $30 later I had an admission ticket. I returned to the attraction entrance and rode down the escalator into the exhibit. At the bottom, they tear your ticket and admit you to an anteroom where you can decide which of the three cases you would like to solve, or you can have them select a case for you. To help you decide brief descriptions of the cases appear on huge signs around the room. Case 1 is a mysterious car crash into somebody's living room, case 2 is a body found behind a seedy motel, and case 3 is a skelton found out in the desert. Each case required different scientific techniques to solve, and each case description tells you which labs will be involved, so you can decide based on your particualr interests. In my case only case 2 involved the Electronics and technology lab, so I chose it. So did most of our group.

When I say group, you go through the attraction with a small group using timed entrance tickets. Once inside you can collaborate or go at it solo, your choice. Having three different cases helps to improve capacity as they can have essentially three teams going through at a time, not to mention it adds replay value for the attraction. Want to try your hand at another case, replays are $26 each. You must make a decision while still in the ante room so that you can receive a clipboard with the correct materials. You are also assigned a unique agent ID number which will come in handy later. On your clipboard, you recieve an investigators note sheet. It has areas for the crime scene and each of the labs, don't worry its mostly of the multiple choice/ fill in the blanks variety. After everybody has their paperwork, you are let into the first room.

In the first room you stand to watch an introductory video by the creator of CSI and Gil Grissom. They talk a little bit about the CSI franchise and then Gil gives treats you like you are a new recruit in his office. He gives you some pointers, instructions for touring the exhibit, and then sends you on your way.

At this point you go down one of three paths depending on what case you chose. You are led to a room corresponding to your case, and to make it easier the cases are color codes, green, blue or red, you merely follow the signs for your assigned case. When you get there you enter a room that has a big tableuax of the crime scene in front of you. Here you are invited to take as much time as you need to study the scene and take down any notes you feel are important. It is worth noting you can't return to this room, so like in real like you may only have one chance to see the crime scene and gather what you think might be important. Oh, and no you can't use a camera, as photograpy in the experience is forbidden.

Your lab paper has a section of graph paper with some key features already drawn in but not labeled. You are instructed to examie the scnene, look for any useful evidence and then draw it into the crime scnee diagram. As Gil just told you, if it isn't in your report, you didn't see it. Some of the stuff is really subtle, like in the one I did you can learn the name of the hotel by reading the labels on the dumpster, and if you are tall or don't mind climbing on the railings you could look into the dumpster, there is a clue in there, but not vital as the same clue appears in a far more visible location. I don't want to give the answer or any clues away in case you want to try this for yourself. Just be sure to note everything no matter how insignificant it may seem. in my crime scene you come accross a wdead waitress in the back of a seedy motel with tire tracks over her waitress outit. Her purse is beside her and the contents of the purse have strewn about the ground, and there are other things of note. I'll talk about some in the various lab stations.

When you think you have it all, you exit the room with the crime scene and enter a room with one of those light up tables like you see in the show, the table has areas for each case, your instructions suggest you stop at the layout table to make sure you caught everything. In my case, I was surprised at the stuff I missed that they showed you, noting that some of the stuff they show you are red herrings just like the real show. They make a big deal about "Are you smart enough to solve the case" but with constant reminders like the layout tables and labs that are for the most part real obvious, I don't think its really that much of a challenge.

After you leave the layout tables you can either go to the stations in lab 1, or go to a computer terminal in lab 1. I can make a case for going in either order. At the computer terminals you tell it which case you have, then you can watch videos from the various CSI characters who talk about their roles in CSI in general, and your case in particular. You can get quite a few hints out of these videos. It also has a section where you can view videos recorded by prior guests to the CSI Experience, these may or may not be useful, and you have the ability to record your own video for others as the computer is equipped with a camera and microphone.

So I'm doing Srime 2, so I was directed to stop at the Digital Evidence, Latent Prints, and Impression Evidence stations in lap area 1. Each lab station has a display and perhaps a video that talk about that area of forensic science in general before you move to the hands on area.

In digital evidence, you learn the victim's cell phone was found (you should have noticed it when you did the crime scene), you are now shown to a computer station where the contents of her cell phone memory have been downloaded to the computer and you can examine her contacts, incoming texts, outgoing texts, pictures, etc. Above the computers is a sign with copies of her cell phone records, as well as those of the people she most recently had contact with. This exercise helps you build a time line. In this case I got the backstory that our victim was an asipring actress (explains the headshot photos found torn at the crime scnene), and piecing together the contents of her incoming and outgoing texts you learn she recieved a role in the new play, and she tells her boyfriend and her best friend (another aspiring actress), the best friend wants her to celebrate and invites her to party. The text messages further show her accepting the invite, but then its only incoming messages from that point, all from her boyfriend all asking where she is, and why isn't she responding. The cell phone records concur with this. For your labwork, you are asked to identify who she sent her last text message to, and the date. Sure, you could do that in a matter of seconds, but you wouldn't get the back story then, now would you? You are also asked to translate what a cryptic incoming text means, this partly requires knowlege of text message slang and knowing the name of the motel, which you owuld only know if you read the front of the dumpster surely helps.

Moving on to Latent Prints, recall those headshots I just mentioned in the last lab, well they collected the headshots into evidence and discovered fingerprints on them that are not the victims. The photo is now visible to you under glass, they even furnish a magnifying glass. Try as you might you won't see the fingerprints unless you turn on the ALS (alternate light source) in this case UV light which causes the fingerprints printed in black light ink to appear. Sitting next to the photo you have a mostly clear block you can actually pick up and hold that has the fingerprint you just saw in the photo printed on it. Now you can use that block to line up with the fingerprints of the various suspects, find the match, note it down on your notesheet.

Moving on to the Impression Evidence lab - Remember the tire tracks found on the ground and over the waitress's body, well they got an impression of them. It also so happens a stolen car was recovered near the scene, I think the stolen car is a model Red Herring, anyway the impression they found is preinted on the center of the lab station, and you are given blocvks with tire samples of three suspect cars. Just like the fingerprints, there is only one clearly obvious choice. This one is a bit harder in that you have to remember you are looking at an impression, that means ridges are really valleys, and vice versa. On your notesheet, note which tire tread smaple matches the impression like a good CSI.

After you finish Lab 1, entirely on your own time, when I as there they didn't try to speed you up or anything, take a little or as much time as you like. Of course, I think how much you get out of it depends on how much you put into it. Official guideline is to allow 60-90 minutes. There are other lab areas, such as the one dealing with firearms that are skipped as they don't pertain to your case, but might deal with one of the other two cases, which also helps the replay value to see the other two crime scenes. .

I went to Lab 2, they have a second layout table which appeared to be just like the one in the center of lab 1, giving you another chance to see the crime scene photos. They also have computer terminals, and I think the expert/colleague (your fellow tourists) videos are different on them.

For my case I was first sent to Toxicology/Drug Chemistry. It seems you found (and if you were like me, totally ignored the white rock crystals found by the body at the crime scene. You have a sample of the mystery substance and have to do testing to determine what it is, for this you are shown a rack of 'test tubes' pushing the button by each one will casue it to light up in the color the liquid would turn if the reagent were mixed with the mystery substance. A reaction color code chart is posted above the test tube rack, Identify the drug, mark it down on the sheet. The one clear obvious answer rule applies here as well, and if you watched all the Expert videos from the lab 1 computer station, you already know the answer anyway.

The next station was Forensic Entomlogy, ah you can't have a good classic Gil Grissom era CSI case without insect evidence. In this case insects on the body can be used to put a timeline on how long the victim has been dead. They have a microscope incased in plexiglass that you can look into to see the insect sample, then a computer terminal gives you a little entomolgy lesson and models the insects growth cycle. all you need to is match the two identical images and it tells you the time estimate. This does take some skill as it gives you a handful of stages in the insects growth, and it tells you the time to advnace to each stage, you have to add the times together to determine the answer. Mark it down on your paper, the other two choices aren't even reasonable. One choice can't be right as she was still alive, and the other doesn't seem right as she had already gone missing.

For the last lab station Forensic Biology/DNA you have reason to suspect your victims nametag does not reveal her true name. No ID can be found on the body but you were able to get her DNA, you also have the DNA profiles of 6 couples who have filed missing persons reports matching der description. By using a block that has the victims DNA profile cut out of it, and laying it over the DNA profiles of the parents, you can determine the victims true name, write it in on your note sheet. Again, there is one clear choice here, as it is the only one that matches every single DNA marker.

After finishing the labs you report to the medical examiners office for the autopsy, this is done in the three rooms, follow your path style. Here I was most impressed in that they have a model of a body sitting on the autopsy table, and as Dave the coroner is talking to you via video monitor the parts of the body he is mentioning show up on the model in full color projection. Your notesheet has a sketch of a body for you to make notes if you wish. After going over the body, the coroner will give his commentary and render his exper opinion, note that down on your notesheet.

From here you leave the Medical Examiners office and go to a computer lab. Here you sit down to a terminal and "Give your Report " to Gil Grissom. I was really glad to see these computers were not equipped with cameras and microphones, instead Gil leads you through a multiple choice test. The answers to all his questions should already be on your notepaper by now. When the quiz is done, it explains each answer, and then Gil comes on the screen with either a congratulatory message or he tells you where you might have gone wrong. In the end you get to see a short video of what actually did happen.

After that comes the marketing piece, you are asked to enter your email address for Gil to email you your diploma, theat fine, but then it asks for all kinds of demographics. In the end if you comply with their wishes, they tell youthat you can pick up a printed diploma in the gift shop. That should be your first clue. On my way out of this room, I was ahnded a survey form to fill out about how I enjoyed the attraction. In the end you turn in your clipboard, survey and pen as you exit the attraction into the gift shop, the notepaper is yours to keep as a souvenit.

The gift shop itself is full of both CSI: Experience and general CSI souvenirs, of course you can get the CSI stuff in many of the tacky gift shops, but these are the official souveniers. And yes, you can get your diploma free, the hitch is they try to upsell you on a frame or a portfolio for your diploma. This attraction is so new, that the day I was there they were still puttng the gift shop together. I exited back up the escalator and played just long enough at MGM Grand to score a free beer.

My next stop is the Pinball Hall of Fame. The Pinball Hall of Fame is not located on the Vegas Strip, but they are conveniently accesed by bus. So I left the MGM Grand, used the bridge to cross over to the Tropicana, dodged the Tropicanasa irrigation system and cars to get o the bus stop located in front of that casino. I'd say not 4 minutes and $1.75 later I was on my way to pinball paradise. Articualted busses, that is those that can bend in the middle are still a novelty to me, and not knowing where I was, and despite the clear audio announcements on the bus, I fired up the GPS/Maps module on the iPhone and mapped out the Pinball place and the bus. Cool use of technology in an urban setting. I was thrown a bit off guard when instead of pull ropes to signal the driver, their busses have pushbuttons located on the center poles. So following the GPS and the instructions I had been given, I got off the bus at Pecos, crossed over over Pecos and Tropicana and found myself looking at not the nicest shopping center. The big sign on the store list out front read simply "PINBALL" I headed to the back of the shopping center nearest a twin movie theater and found the nondescript museum. Big pitucre windows let the row of machines inside smile at you to welcome you in.

Upon entering, there is no admission fee, and you enter at the center of what might be 4 or 5 rows of games. Directly across from the entrance are three conveniently located change machines, and you learn the games do use quarters, not tokens so don't fell scread of buying in for more than you will have time to play. The layout is real simple, there is little room for decortion, what you do have are the 5 rows of pinball machines. The front row is a single row proudly facing the front windows with mostly newer and some of the more unusual machines one one side, and some older machines on the other side. then you have three double sided rows , then a single sided row in the back with an airhockey table and some tables and chairs along the back wall as a sort of party area. Along the two end sides are some smaller novelty arcade machines as well as some classic video games. There may be some games here that would be redemption games in most settings, but here they are novelty games, no tickets are awarded. For the most part the video games are along the side walls or hidden in the back row. A sign in the front recognizes them wnning an award for the Best Arcade. The games themselves range from 1950's era electormechanical pins all the way to the newest machines off the factory floor. Not only are the domestic manufacturers represented, but there is a selction of foreign made games as well. In general, the rule is that a game produced before 1990 is 25 cents, '90s games and early 2000's are 50 cents, and the brand new releases are 75 cents. Of course, this is all subject to change based on the rarity or unusual factor of a machine. If a machine is particulalry rare or expensive to maintain, its cost goes up. The important thing to remember, expesially for a guy whe grew up in 3 ball Add-A-Ball territory. (Cincinnati banned pinball machines from awarding specials or replays up until quite recently) is that the machines in the museum are, for the most part, set to give the full 5 ball game, and replays/matches can be had. I'm not sure how many places offer 5 ball pinball since even the museum was making a big deal about offering the FULL FIVE BALL GAME! For the most part, the machines had little cards down by where the information cards that told the vintage and manufacturer of each game, as well as any noteworthy features, some games also have a little card telling if the machine had recently had any major restoration done to it.

So I started with several older electromechanical games, the kind with the car odometer style score readouts, and usually much simpler gameplay without multiball. Note simpler does not mean easier, just easier to know what you have to do. One of the games had the novelty of extra long flippers. I saw a lot of my childhood favorites in the room, but I resisted the urge of playing them, instead focusssing on older or unusual games. One of them Orbitor I maybe had the unusual feature of having a playfield that appears to be cratered instead of flat, and the outhole is truly that a drop hole, so you can play the ball off the bottom of the playfield even below the flippers.

Speaking of unusual machines they have a Pinball Circus, according to the signage this is an ultra rare machine that didn't make it out of the prototype stage, and only two prototypes survived. The concept here was a pinball machine that could fit in the size of a video game cabinet. The machine has 5 levels, the first is the main playfield, its naturally smaller than a traditional machine, but if you can hit the right rampyou go up to level 2, on level 2 you have to flip atjust the right time forit to go up to level 3, on level 3, the ball will hopefully fall into an elephants tusk that will raise it to level 4, here you have to sink the drop targets to access the chain lift to level 5, in level 5 it's another row of drop targets to reveal the jackpot target in the clowns mouth. I can see why it was scuttled, as it looks like a mechanical maintenance nightmare. Being a rare game, I paid a full dollar for the right to play it, but you did get the full 5 ball game.

Overall they have 200 machines, with about 150 of them being pinball machines, the story goes the operator has a massive collection of about 1,200 machines that he rotates through the museum, and he is looking to move to a facility that is both larger and closer to the strip. It might be able to hold 500 machines at one time. They also had a cocktail table sized pinballl machine, and an example of the old Bingo pinball. Bingo pinball was once a gambling game, put in money, shoot 5 balls, no flippers its purely what drop holes the balls land in. If you miss all the target holes, the game returns the ball to you, so you will get 5 numbers. At the end the numbers you hit light up on a bingo card, get the specified number of lights in a row and you won credits. In days of old, these credits would be cashed out under the counter, here they hae a sign making it very clear you are paying just to see the machine operate, no cash outs. At least it was only a nickle, they also had two other odd nickel games, where isntead of a ball, your nickel was the game piee, they were both one offs of pinball. One was basically a slot machine in that you would flick your coin with a lever towards a group of targets, it would light up the slot mahine symbol your coin landed in, repeat three times. The other was more complex, you got to flick the coin more times, this time the rowsof lanes had differing score values, the harder the shot the higher the score.

In one corner of the place, you can watch them restoring a machine. The snack bar is a couple of vending machines, gift shop is whatever you can get out of the crane machines and the like, unless you find a machine they want to sell. Prices are posted on some of the games I played around $10 worth of pinball, and bought an A&W Cream Soda at the reasonable for Vegas price of 75 cents for a can. The drinks machine did have some unusual drinks in it. For the nickel operated games, you can get a roll of nickels from the candy machine. As it turns out I caught the return bus right in front of the shopping center, and it dropped me off right in front of New York New York. I got the phone call remindng me to met them to go to Freemont Street as I was walking in the front door. So I had a short time to run my stuff up to my room, get freshened up and then return to the taxi stand. Here we shared a taxi van down to Freemont Street.

If I didn't already mention it the taxi vans are designed to seat 6 passengers, but since the local rules limit them to 5 passengers the back seat has a seat divider effectively making it a two seat bench. We were dropped off at the Plaza, but crossed the street to walk down the street. Freemont Street, or "Old Vegas" Here instead of massive casino resorts that take up an entire large city block, here they cram like 8-10 casinos in a four small city block area. These casinos are lightly themed, if they have any theming. The attraction here is the small size, lower prices for food, and the nostalgia factor. The casinos have also banded together to market themselves as a attraction to get tourists down from the strip. Sure, they don't have a volcano, but they have a 4 block line LED matrix board built over the street, and the street has been closed off to vehicles, and filled with bars, stages, souvenir stands and the like creating a "street party" atmopshere. At night they show a light show on the matrix boards every hour as part of the entertainment package.

We started off by going into Mermaids,which is a tiny casino that uses $1 cocktails and cheap eats to get people inside. Those are tiny $1 cocktails and the $1 fried oreos were the worst I've ever had They also haven't invested in the technology, as their slot machines are still coin based instead of using the cashless ticket system used in almost all modern casinos. To put the crowning blow on i all, we got out just before a fight erupted on the gaming floor between two people drunkenly swaggering with 40 ouncers.

We headed down the street stopping in the Horseshoe where apparently the million dollar display has returned, the Fitzgerald, and the Four Queens. We had dinner at the Four Queens, where we were assigned to the same table as last year. This year though we passed on the $7 prime rib to have the $12 ribeye steaks instead. They sell good food, at cheap prices and are apparently pretty popular. We also hit the souvenir stores along the way. Every now and then we would take a break from gaming to go out and watch the hourly light show. We wound up staying till the last light show at midnight, then caught a taxi van at the Plaza to return to New York New York.

After we played awhile at New York New York and it was just Ricky and I left we walked next door to the Monte Carlo and played some more. We played until we looked at the time and were shocked to learn it was 4AM. We then returned to our hotel and went to bed.

Friday arrived, and I admit I had pretty much had my fill of Vegas, I was losing and all. We wound up not even leaving our room till 2pm and had lunch at the food court. I must recommend Greenburg's Deli great deli sandwhiches. Most of the family was willing to just hang out in NYNY for the day, but Ricky and I decided to make one final night walk.

We started by walking up the street to the same McDonalds between Planet Hollywood and MGM Grand that we stopped at the first night, then went to Planet Hollywood to enjoy the Pleasure Pit one last time. Next we went to the Flamingo and spent some time exploring the Flamingo animal habitat and Bugsy Siegel memorial in the hotel courtyard. We admitted its probably a better activity for daytime than nighttime.

Our next stop was Harrah's where we playeda a little blackjack at the outdoor club out in the carnival area. We stopped soon thereafter when we noted blackjack only paid 6:5 instead of the usual 3:2. We walked further to Casino Royale and tried the promotional machines outside the casino. These are slot machines with skill stops,so it is supposedly a game of skill but in the end the game issues a $50 voucher without a barcode. The hitch is you can only redeem that $50 voucher for a special pink $50 bill that can only be played in specified machines. Yes, its the typical promotional game where you only get a cash prize if you hit the jackpot on the machine, anything else merely awards more promotional credits. It's a popular Vegas come on.

We next went to the Venetian, entered using the moving walkways over the Rialto Bridge entrance, then we walked through the Grand Canal Shoppes while admiring the indoor gondola ride. At the other end of the shopping mall we rode an escalator down into the Palazzo where we played some more games.

We next headed to the Wynn, we admired the outdoor fountains , and walked through the shopping esplanade and admired the Rolex store. We toured the Wynn casino, and observed somebody playing craps for $10,000 stakes. We played some at the Wynn just to say we had been there,and while playing a slot host came up to us and issued us player cards on the spot, and gave us each $10 free play. Great, friendly service.

After the Wynn, we went to Treasure Island (TI) to watch Sirens of TI,the free show in front of the casino. It used to be a pirate battle between two pirate ships, but now its one pirate ship, and the other boat is full of sirens, better known as showgirls. It starts with one pirate going alone in a rowboat being captured by the sirens, then the big pirate ship arrives and they try to rescue the one pirate, a battle ensures with flame effects, and damage to the sirens ship. The pirates aren't so lucky as their ship sustains fatal damage and sinks. The pirates flee to the sirens ship and then its all sexy dance numbers. The show ends with fireworks and the pomise that the pirate's treasure awaits you inside.

After the show the large crowd stayed thick all the way through walking past the Mirage and finally thinned out by the time we got to Ceasar's Palace. We skipped that to, and we walked all the way into the Bellagio but decided not to play. We eventually just left the Bellagio and returned to our hotel. Early morning tomorrow.

The next morning we were out of our rooms by 9:30 and we briefly thought about an offer of a $45 limo ride to the airport,but eventually turned it down for a $12 taxi van ride. You might remember the ride from the airport to the hotel cost twice as much. We arrived at the airport and despite web check in working fine on the way to Vegas, the web check in and the self serve check in kiosks in the airport refused to check me in. I had to wait in a long slow "problem resolution" lane for the one human check in person. She was able to check me in right away, but could not offer any reason for why I could not check my self in. We wound up waiting some more for the wheelchair escort as they were short staffed. That all balanced out as the wheelchair escort meant not having to wait in the security line.

Eventually we got to the airport food court just in time to have enough time to eat and get back to our gate. Our flight home also did not have the personal entertainment systems, and was pretty uneventful. I did try a Chicken Gyro for $8, which was served cold and by far not the best gyro I ever had. When we got to Cincinnati we got a wheelchair, but they said there would be a wait for an escort, so I pushed. We had no trouble claiming bags, then we headed home.

And that ends Vegas Week 09.

That should be all the trip reports for the year.

See ya next year!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

TR: KIngs Island Fall Tri-Fecta (10/17, 10/18, 11/1)

TR: Kings Island Fall Tri-Fecta
Mason, OH
October 17, 18 and November 1.

Okay: the usual rules of a Kings Island trip report apply, you have ready my gushings about Diamondback, and I have described most of the rides. So a little less on the verbosity unless something is special.

This report covers three 'short' visits to Kings Island I took in the fall.

October 17

I wasn't really planning on going to the park today, but I was up in the Fields Ertel area anyway, and despite the chill in the air, I figured I was only 1 exit from the park so I dropped by. I arrived at the park around 2:30 and my first order of business was renewing the season pass. I wasn't sure how many more visits to the park I would get this year, so I decided to stop past the season pass center now. In 2009 I had a gold pass, and looking forward to my 2010 park plans, I figured a platinum pass was the right level, so I took my gold pass to the window and asked about pricing. The park had run an unbelievably good deal on gold passes, on selected days they were only $65, but the platinum pass stayed firm at $145, this means you need to plan on at least 2 visits to other Cedar Fair parks to justify the upgrade.

I walk right up to an open window, and $145 later I have a platinum pass and she collects my 2009 gold pass for the renewal. I'm skeptical, but I go inside and I get a friendly camera operator for the photo shoot for my platinum pass. I ask him, and he tells me the 2010 pass will, of course, only work in 2010. Long story short, he gets his supervisor, who goes to the person who sold me my new pass to get my old pass back. Now I am ready to enter the park.

I breeze through security and enter the park, and pretty much head right to Diamondback. The ride had about a 20-25 minute wait, and I wait through the regular line since I did not see the single rider lane open. I get to the boarding platform, request and receive seat 16. At this the single rider in the now open SRL makes it clear he is a single so he too can score a ride in a prime seat. Seat 16 really is the best seat on the ride. Upon exiting I duck into the Single rider line, and I get to the front of what is essentially a walk on and promptly get rewarded with a ride in dull seat 10. I take one more ride through the normal waiting line, winding up in an acceptable seat and then head on to check out the rest of the park.

I get back to Beast and decide to take a ride. The line for Beast is about halfway down the long ramp between the top and middle queue houses, so it has a bit of a line but not much. I take a seat towards the front of the train, and soon we are off. In the nice things department, I really like the flagpole they have added to the center of the turn out of the station, where all the support cables come together in the center of the turn, they have installed a flagpole with a United States flag, which really looks nice. They even have a lamp above the doghouse which shines down on it. That's a cool installation, actually I have noted several rides have flags now, most are of the stick flag variety mounted around the operators boooth, with some exceptions, Diamondback for instance has a full size flag on the inside roof overhang of the station neartest the operators booth. Okay, having gotten the niceties out of the way, the Beast ride was rough, sluggish, and all that work that went into smoothing out the helix was for naught, as it was roguh as ever. Why do I continue to ride on this overrated ride?

I take a quick look through the arcade, then head to Back Lot Stunt Coaster. I was pleasantly surprised to see the very first switchback just inside the entrance closed off so as to bypass the needless walk all the way down the hill to the queue house and back. What's even better is they weren't assigning seats, so I took a ride in the front seat, otherwise known as the only seat on the entire ride with appreciable airtime. I take my seat, lower the lapbar, then the bars release, and tehe operators do bar checks again, and the operator sets my bar looser than I had it, which is strange since this particular ride is usually staffed by operators who like to see just how far down they can push it, entirely arbitrarily as the guy next to you can have a bar much looser than yours but his is okay. It was nice though, getting those two airtime pops which come right before and after the subway stair drop. At least the lights on the police cars and the fire effects work in the show scene.

Out in front of the ride for Haunt they had a Wallandas promo doctored up so it said Fallandas, "Help him Fall!" closer eyes will note its sponsored by Shapiro!. The controversial celebrity death scene between Beast and Crypt was replaced by an American Idol parody scene "After Life Idol". I head up into Coney Maul, themed to be a carnival so tacky looking most cvarnival operators would be offended. Cheap used-car-dealership stremaer pennants line the midways on both sides and give the place a suitably tacky look. Sideshow canvas advertises dubious sideshow acts. And look at the phony snack bars, selling stuff like "Funeral Cakes" Just for good measure, I take a ride on Vortex, the line is just back to the Troika exit, which means only about 15 minutes. Exiting Vortex, I am curious about the big white tent I see setup in the area.

I don't make many stops in the area, I dod look and see that the X-Base rides are, as usual very crowded. I happen to be walking past Monster just starting a load cycle with almost nobody in line. I can't pass that up, and get rewarded with a Monster ride that not only has the usual pops of airtime, but I had a car that spins a bit more than the usual Monster car. All in all a good ride, even if the loading proceudre insures it takes time to ride. I also stop at Racer, and take a back seat ride in Red Racer, as Blue Racer is already closed for the season. Racers line was just down to the bottom of the ramp. Man, I could see Racer just trying to be a good coaster, it had suggestions of airtime and all.

Next I head into Oktoberfest, and take a walk on ride on Advneture Express. Not a whole lot to report here, as Advneture express was running pretty consistant and all. Looking at my watch its about 5:40 and I could use a bite to eat. I head to the International Restaurant to check out the Fright Feat. Uppon arriving at the International Restaurant I learn I have to exit the park, go to the ticket windows, and get a ticket for the meal.

So I run out get my ticket and run back in, so now I have the $13.99 prepaid meal ticket, and I get in the steadlily building line for the Fright Feast. By 5:50 the line is back to the Kings Island Theater. The staff takes those of us in the back half of the line around to the back door of International Restaurant and admits us through the staff entrance. On our way in they exchange our meal ticket for a front-of-the-line pass to Slaughter House, one of the new Haunts. I get into International Restaurant and it is midly decorated for the season with some black fabric on the walls, fake cobwebs and the like. I've seen fast food places decorate for the season better. The advertisements showed the buffet setup in coffins, but that wasn't to be. What was to be is probably the most German meal one could get in the park! Recall, we are talking about the park that has an entire section themed to Oktoberfest, has a building called the Festhaus, and yet they seem to be trying to strip away every thing even remotely german about it. For example, there is nothing inherently german on the entire menu in Oktoberfest, with the exception of beer, and even then its not German beer.

I go down the buffet line, and whats this, hot german potato salad, brats and kraut, roast chicken, pull pork BBQ, cole slaw, mac and cheese, german chocolate cake, and the obligatory pumpkin pie. I have a nice german meal with brats, kraut, sides, a pull pork sandwich, and both deserts of course. The meal even included soft drinks. I stuck around even after finishing up eating to see if there was any kind of program, but then after figuring their wasn't I exited out the front doors to International Street.

I note my front of the line pass for Slaughter House mentined in the fine print it is to be redeemed by 6:45 at the Kings Island Theater. I walk over to the Kings Island Theater, but first walk through front gate gifts. Front gate gifts has a bag sale going on, as in buy a bag for $10 and take whatever you can fit into the bag. I'm glad they let you look first, becuase the offerings in the store are almost entirely garbage that even Goodwill would probably throw away.

Okay, Kings Island theater, and Don Helbig is there meeting people under a Fright Feat sign. From there every couple minutes a staff member comes to escort people down to Slaughterhouse. Slaugherhouse takes place in what is normally the Stunt Crew Grill. Normally you line up for Slaughterhouse coming from the side nearest Delirium, but they escort you to a seperate line that is setup coming from the Invertigo side. Not that it matters since they must open it at 6 or so, and take people as they come down from Fright Feast, I'm thinking the impact on regular Haunt visitors is close to nothing. Careful observation will note that the Slaughterhouse is a bit bigger than Stunt Crew Grill, and I doubt you even go into the building part of it where the service lines are, instead the haunt takes place on the two covered outdoor dining patios and the area in front of the stand. The entrnace way is setup to look like abutcher shop, you go in, they tell you the rules, then you enter the haunt. The bad thing about going this early is it is too light out in the outdoor non covered portions. They do make good use of strobes and like most of their offerings is more focusees on blood and gore and less on pure scares. It seems their most common scare is baging on a wood wall, or opening a small sliding panel, shouting at you, and then slaming it back closed. That's not to say Slaughterhouse doesn't have its moments, it has the furnace from Phantom Theatre, it has a room where you walk through and car starts up and moves a couple feet towards you with horn and lights going. If it weren't for the obvious safety barrier that might be effective. I noted the pig pens in the middle of the maze that were to house real pigs instead house plush animal pigs. Towards the end they have a buthers counter scene where the butcher is working on a body with a meat cleaver that looks just like one you see at the very start of the maze, leading you to wonder if you are going in circles. The last stunt is one of those air cushion walls where you have to squeeze between two air cushions, its similar to, but not as effective as a similar stunt used at EnterTRAINment Junction. Not a bad haunt, really.

I nnext have time to high tail it all the way to Urgent Scare which is in the Action FX Theater. I get there before 7 and the line is backed up to the old Flight Commander entrance, but I have a sneaking suspicion the main queue area for it isn't open yet. My suspicion is confimed when right around 7, we go on a nice steady walk and when the dust settles I am to the part of the Acton FX queue where it splits into two lanes. Only one lane was open of course,a nd the actors were using the other lane as a walkways. Urgent Scare is a haunt with a story, the story last year was a plaque or virus was running rampant through the town being spread by a tainted energy drink. This year they dropped the whole energy drink line and were openly calling it the Swine Flu causing the problems. The story is you have to get to the hospital before its too late. As you wait in the queue line, deranged 'patients' pace back and forth and medical equipment is strewen through the yard. The queue line forms the perfect "mob" heading to the hospital and a sound loop provides "rioting angry mob" sound effects.

When you get to the hospital, they first group you as normal, but then they only let you into the hospital lobby one at a time. Under the guise of being photographed for a visitors pass, they have you go in, stand on the X, and the camera is rigged with a special effect set to activate a few seconds before the shutter, in the hopes of getting your reaction. You are then handed the usual pink Souvenier Photo card. They then escort you into the "elevator" where you wait for the rest of the people in your group to get their photos taken. It sounds like a time drag, but they really have it set to military like precision, and I betcha the idea is that instead of waiting 2 minutes before groups, they take 8 peopls photos one a a time 15 seconds each, and that way it actually seems like the line is constantly moving. The "elevator" is a room with a vibrating floor, then you get off the elevator, and go through the doctors office, very creepy doctor. Then you go through the inside part of the haunt where you go through the haunted hospital, guts and gore are the name of the game here. Imagine everything you never wanted to see in a patient room, they probably have it was you walk through the wards. The haunt takes place in the side of Action FX theater nearest Vortex, and continues along the exit hallway in the building, through the arcade, and then all the way up the long exit path. When you exit the hospital (and go outisde) they twll you you have to be decontaminanted after going throught the hospital, and they, make you walk through a water curtain, on a 39 degree night. I'm so happy I had a hood. The exit ramp is setup more like making your way through the military blockade. Oh, and the bungee person got me agan this year, as they moved the location of the person that literally drops in on you from bungee cords. Once you get back up to near Vortex exit where they have a tent setup with the In-Haunt Photo stand.

Urgent Scare is, I think, one of the best haunts here. It has a story, it has a mix of good old fashioned scare along with your guts and gore, the fact it is one of the longest haunts at haunt helps, and even with the line, I was able to make it down to the all new Cutthroat Cove by 7:40. I should have spent my time at Trail of Terror, which is also one of my favorite haunts there. I'd say Urgent Scare and Trail of Terror are my two favorites, though Sluahgerhouse isn't bad. Cutthroat Cove is Redbeards Revenge under a new name. I knew that going in, but though Redbeards wasn't too bad, and with a new location they might have improved it.

Redbeards former home was the mining company, and Back Porch Stage. Both of these were removed this year as they are now the Diamondback queue area. Cutthorat Cove is setup at Outer Hanks, so I first expected Outer Hanks to be closed, but it is in fact not only open, but it has a Haunt overlay as One Eyed Jacks. You enter Cutthroats through the Viking Fury exit. The Viking Fury Exit combines with a new paved walkway that runs behind the airbrush shop to form the queue area for Cutthroats with the actual haunt not starting until you reach the Outer Hanks dining patio. They have lined part of the queue area with nautical code of signals flags, and a quick check revealed they just strung them up in alphabetical order instead of cleverly hiding a message. I guess this, and that big disused Viking ship count as nautical queue theming. It appears they have built the haunt on the back part of the dining patio nearest the lake, which means they can still keep a sizeable part of the dining patio open for those who want to eat or drink at the bar. The main problem here is there is no cover over the haunt, and with the dining patio lights on, a good portion of the haunt is brightly lit. There is entirely too much light here. They used ofggers to great effect in a couple places, but it was, as advertised Redbeards Revenge relocated. They made good use of the sound system in the area for creepy music, but all in all, I have to give Cutthroat Cove bad marks. It exits out directly into Lt. Dan's Back Porch Bar. Care for an after Scare Cocktail?

They had opened Cutthroat Cove a bit early, so I was able to exit, and get down to Showplace by 8:07 and so caught most of Hot Blooded. I found it to be nowhere near as engaging as Dead Awakening. Okay, girls kind of scantily dressed, okay, but I just got back from Vegas, so my expectations may have been a bit more than a family park can offer. The rain wall special effect in the back of the set was nice, but overplayed. The small scale pyro was neat, and very loud. The show just didn't do it for me and seemed to be more similar to Ghouls Gone Wild then Dead Awakenings. After the show, I went back to Diamondback for a few more rides, but by this time the queue was entirely full, and single rider line was back to the cell phone display. Ugh. I took two more rides though, at about 45 minutes apeice.

By that time, I had to head out. I realaized how cold it was when every stand that had coffee or cocoa was insanely busy. I'll just wait till I get home. Once I got home, I was contacted by Rideman who wanted to go up to the park the next day, but he wasn't ging till late, so I coudl still do church, brunch and that kind of thing.

October 18

As mentioned, I started the day like any normal Sunday, went through the Sunday routine. Then I sat and waited for Rideman. Rideman had inidcated he was going to take it easy in the morning, after all the park is open till midnight. To give you an idea, his text message asked "I'm finally going, do you still want to go" I'd say we arrived at the park around 4 pm, but to my mind any park time is better than no park time!

We pulled into the lot, and found a nice parking space in the first row of general parking and headed into the park. It probably won't surprise you that we beelined it right for Nick Universe, you thought I was going to say Diamondback! The idea isn't as strange as it sounds as we knew Nick was closing at 5pm, and it might be our last chance to see it as Nick. We took a quik ride on Fairly Odd Coaster and confirmed that while it is the best running wood coaster in the park, it is also still braked. We witnessed an attendant tell an adult that one of their children (family of like six) could not ride for height, so instead of having the one child wait, she made the other 4 all get off. I don't quite get that.

We then took a quick walk through Nick on our way to Diamondback. We got to Diamondback, and found it to be a total walk on. You're telling me the park's newest ride is a walk on!??! We walked right on to seat 16.. What a great ride. We took a few more Diamondback rides before doing the customary tour of the park.

On our first pass around the park we skipped Beast, but took a ride on Back Lot Stunt Coaster. It too was a near walk on, so we went right for the front seat. Recall just the day prior I rode the ride with a loose lap bar that the operator set. This time I got the ride operator who wanted to see just how far it could go down, not just till it touches, but how far they could physically lower the bar. That was just uncalled for. At least it gives a fun if short ride.

We next headed around and took the customary ride on Vortex, nothing much to report here. We started heading back towards the front of the park when we took a walk back to X-Base. Ok, its cold, maybe all the people are in Flight of Fear. Nope - walk on conditions here as well. You may recall I had trouble with Mr. Freeze, so I was hesitant about even trying to ride Flight of Fear. I took my usual spot on the left side on Row 1, and was rejected. However, the ride operator suggested I move to Row 2, which I did actually changing stations on the operator side of the platform, recall it is a two stop loading ride. Okay, they were able to get me seated in Row 2. At least I got to ride Flight of Fear, its a shame its so hard for me to get on the ride since it is actually a really fun ride, even if they do brake it to a full stop, and with the delay in the station I caused don't tell me it was a blocking issue. At the unload platform, my belt would not release and Rideman had to perform martial arts on it for it to release.

Okay, next up was Firehawk, which Rideman declined as he was not suitably equipped. Now there were 4 people in front of me in the queue when I joined the line. Sounds like I would get a a quick in and out ride, right. Wrong, Rideman clocked it at 15 minutes. Most of that time was spent with me strapped into the back seat looking at Rideman with both of us gesturing "What's taking so long?" Oh well, I at least got a great ride on my second favorite coaster in the park. I'm flying, oh and vertical-loop-on-your-back!

After Firehawk, we decided that Rideman needed to get his jacket out of his car before the No Re-entry policy starts at 7pm. We noted that Scrambler was running during Haunt for the first time in years. So this year we gain Scrrambler back but lost Viking Fury. I suppose the bigger change is Flight Deck is now open during Haunt. Rideman got his jacket and we headed to Invertigo.

Wait, this can't be right, a walk on for Invertigo! We again walked right on to an end seat, the end facing Congo Falls and took a quick hihg G intense ride. Our ride included an extra show as I got a glimpse of the flag retreat out in front of the park while we were climibng lift 2. It seems the park is raising the flag in the morning, and taking it down at sundown, very traditional, but only for the flag out in the former tram circle in front of the park. That particular pole is even flood lit, and the still keep the flood lit at night.

After Invertigo, we head to Son of Beast. Okay, you probably know Son of Beast is closed for the forseeable future, but they are using the Son of Beast queue for Flight Deck during Haunt. What they have done basically is cut an opening in the very back of the Son of Beast queue nearest Flight Deck, so you start of going through the Son of Beast queue, then when you get to the end of it, you cross over the exit lane, and go down a newly paved connector to the regular Flight Deck entrance, then you enter Flight Deck as normal at that point. Actually using the Son of Beast queue is probably unnecessary but it helps with crowd control as at one point you have the queue for Club Blood, the exit for Flight Deck and the queue for Flight Deck all right next to each other, so putting Flight Deck queue in the Son of Beast queue helps allievate some of that congestion, and allows another coaster to be open during Haunt to take Sonny's place. I did not not only is the Son of Beast entrance and exit fenced over, but the theming in the tunnel, as little as it was into the area has been completely painted over. I didn't look at the Flight Deck side to see if they painted over the big American flag mural. When we got to Flight Deck we sat down in the front seat of the back car, and rode for like 7-10 times straight without even getting out of the seat. I didn't even undo my seatbelt the whole time. Marathon going on on Flight Deck. At one point we were the only two on the ride. What was more amazing is they were still running both trains.

When we tired of Flight Deck, we were going to head to Delirium, but due to a rider who was so excited they couldn't contain themselves, we decided to pass it for later. We passe Sling Shot and I had to think hard about the $5 special before I finally declined it. It was even a walk on at only $5. We opted instead for a back seat walk on ride on Adventure Express. Another steady performer nothing too bad to mention here. I noticed the game booth that was a kids jacobs ladder, then a Guitar Hero game is now a soccer themed skill game.

After Adventure Express we took a ride on Racer, and with unbelievable luck had a walk on front seat ride. They even let us ride with only 1 click on the lap bars, it was shaping up to be a great Racer ride, too bad Racer failed to deliver the goods. We continued our way around and stopped off at Zephyr for a swing ride in which we were the only two riders. Are you noticing a trend?

Rideman pointed out to me the feature fo the gross "Funeral Cakes" stand I had missed, which was a skeleton , using a urinal, next to the soft drink machine. I alsways had my doubts about certain citrus sodas. We noticed Troika was not open for Haunt, and since we had already done Vortex and Back Lot, we decided to finish up the open part of the coaster collection with a ride on Beast. The good news is it was only a train or two station wait for Beast, the bad news is the two click rule was in play. The new flag was still there, and the ride was for the most part dark with very minimal lighting on, which is a better night ride than this thing has given in years as far as asthetics go. The bad news is its still running slow and rough. Let's head to a true night ride.

We head back to Diamondback and proceed to take numerous Diamondback rides, mostly in the back seat. We must have ridden Diamondback several times for an hour or two. once we even took a ride in the front seat, seeing as it was also a walk on. The operators commented "Welcome to Diamondback, proving once again Kings Island is better than the Magic Kingdom" When asked how that is, he said "You just waited a total of 30 seconds for a front seat ride on our newest, biggest coaster, at the Magic Kingdom you wait 90 minutes to ride the elephant ride!"
Low temperatures, lower wind chills, and the very open front seat provided a very cold ride experience, "Welcome back Diamondback riders, how was your freezing cold ride" On one ride we were cuationed to protect our ears going past Showplace, and sure enough when we passed Showplace it was the exact right time for Hot Blooded's pyro features. Yes, that was loud. We rode Diamondback until we were just about ready to leave the park. We even stopped of at Starbucks for a quick warm up. We took in a tour of the Haunt displays in theInternationsl Street store windows, and the Phantom Theater characters on the Bandstand.

After Starbucks, we realized we hadn't ridden Delirium, a situation we needed to fix. We headed to a walk on Delirum, but not only a walk on Delirum a Delirum in Party Mode. Basically the rules were whever the ride stopped, if you wanted off, get off, if you wanted on, get on, no need to exit until you have had your fill. We took 3 Delirium rides in that set, and both swear the last one was significantly shorter than the other two. I labeled the ride experience "Invigorating", Rideman said "So, that's what you call it" The ride operators said something like "Welcome to Delirum, we are going to swing you 137' in the air at speeds up to XXX, which is going to feel great in this weather, while spinning you at XXX rpm, which is also gonna feel really good in this weaher!"

After Delirium, we were basically done with the park and headed to Waffle House, but I stopped off for a walk in haunt, Slaugher House with no queue, and only 3 of us in our group. I mainly wanted to see if it was better in the dark, it was slightly. Then it was our of the park and to Waffle House for some Scattered, Smothered, Covered, and Topped hashbrowns to which we added Cassa De Waffle picante sauce (like a salsa) and hot sauce, oh yeah we also had drinks and cheeseburgers. Its the Coaster Enthusiast after hours dinner of champions!

November 1, 2009 - Closing Day

This was another day I really hadn't planned on going, but I just couldn't let my final chance to ride Diamondback for nearly 6 months go away! I got the the park at 5:15, which was really late considering it closed at 7pm. I entered the park and started with taking my final ride on Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle. I failed to win the Twitter contest for last rides, but when I arrived at the ride, the line was only 5-10 minutes long, if that. Now Scooby has been getting lots of complaints this year (even from me) for non-working Fright Lights, and inoperablt stunts. I swear they decided to have the ride go out on a high note. I think every effect was working, even some I haven't seen work in several visits. I even had a Fright Light that worked the entire ride.

After me Scooby ride, I met up with Don and we headed to Diamondback. We proceeded to enjoy the benefits of a Diamondback with maybe a 5-10 minute wait for the next hour and a half. I think we scored 7 rides in that time, with 5 of those being in that wonderful back seat, 1 in row 15, which may as well be the back seat, and 1 in row 2, which may as well be the front seat. What a great way to end out the season, with the airtime filled goodness of Diamondback,. That also means I began and ended my season on the same ride. We declined the traditional Last Rides for ACE offer on Beast, I mean why take 1 ride on the rough Beast, when in the same time as the ERT we could get two back seat rides on the smooth as silk, and airtime filled Diamondback. On one ride I looked at the group assembled for Beast final ride, and I doubt there were 20 people in that plaza, I recall in years past that whole plaza would be packed with people for final ride.

After the park closed, we managed to be the last customers at Starbucks, and then did the customary final night meat up at Culvers after the park closed.

So long, it's been a great season. With this my coaster trip reports are done for 2009.

I do have a non-coaster trip to Vegas, not sure how I want to handle that one. There may be a trip report, then again there might not.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

TR: Fall Affair at Holiday World (9/26/09)

TR: Holiday World
Santa Claus, IN
September 26, 2009

Fall Affair is the annual Coasterbuzz event at Holiday World. Flyers about it had been passed out at Holiwood Nights clear back in May, and we had pretty much decided we were a go then. That explains perfectly why Rideman and I were sweating bullets with last minute mail in registration. We had also planned to spend the night before at Halloween Haunt at Kings Island, but steady rainshowers and other issues prevented that from happening.

Halloween Haunt was part of the plan, as it would put Rideman in Cincinnati to spend the night, rather than Columbus, which would have allowed him an extra two hours sleep. He still took most of that time, which means we left for Holiday World already behind schedule. It was a pretty uneventful drive down, and we spent the time listening to, appropraitely enough, some episodes of the Coasterbuzz Podcast. In fact with just a fuel stop and a McDonalds run for breakfast, we were soon arriving in Santa Claus, IN just around 11:30.

When we arrived at the park, I showd Rideman the new parking lot access road, but we ignored it and headed to the Raven lot. Upon looking at the Raven lot, we decided the closer spaces might actually be over in Legend. We moved to the Legend lot and got a parking space very near the tunnel under the road. Soon thereafter we headed to the main gate. In the past Coasterbuzz has had their own check in booth, but I guess we missed that with our late arrival, so instead we checked in at Guest Relations. It's the standard Holiday World event procedure, we recieved a covention style plastic nametag, and a FUNvelope filled with an admission ticket, meal ticket, coupon sheet, and event schedule. This was soon followed by the traditional running all the stuff we don't need right now out to the car.

Okay, now we are really inside the park, and head for Raven. We headed right up to the Raven station, and when we peeked inside, Rideman indicated he thought lines would not be a problem. Ah, two people in line for the front seat, and the rest of the rows are empty. We of course took the opportunity to start the day off with a back seat ride on Raven. With only one train on, it goes up the lift hill at a normal rahter than a slow crawl. The ride itself was a nice start to our Holiday World day.

We then headed towards Legend, and as we were about near Scarecrow Scrambler, we saw Will Koch and stopped and chatted. I mentioned how much different this was than the crowd that was here back in August. We left us with a hearty "Enjoy your whole park ERT!"

We headed to the Legend station and where is the love for Legend. We head right for the front seat. While we ride in the front seat we can see lots of yellow markings which may suggest an off season improvement plan. For whatever reason, Legend was not running at its finest today, which runs counter to my other three days in the park so far this season.

After Legend, we did not run right for Voyage, instead we took the traditional once-around the park flat ride tour. We started with Hallowsings, then headed to Eagle's Flight. I have been getting the feeling that I've been doing something right on Eagle's Flight because the ride feels as if I should be getting action, but alas no satisfying KERCHUNK from the ride. I also figure we must be running slightly ahead of a large group as the empty Eagles' Flight queue was about a third full when we left the ride, mind you I think thats about one cycle.

From Eagle's Flight we rode Revolution, then headed to Holidog's Fun Town. WE were walking around looking at Fun Town for no apparent reason. While back there I got the wild hair to go down the tallest, twistiest slide they had to offer. They have a large tree fort like play structure with numerous activities. Following the signs, I remove my shoes and contemplate how to get up to the top of the turret. There is a mini rock wall section, or a ladder followed by a cargo net bridge, it seems there is no easy staircase up. We conjectured this may be exactly to discourage overweight unathletic types like me from using the equipment. I opt for the ladder, then the cargo net bridge, as I enter the turret, Rideman reassures me he has a phone and can call somebody if I get hopelessly stuck. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Once inside the turret, its a series of mini ladder/stairs up to the top. Not the easiest climb, but nothing technically challening either. Now I am at the summit, I climb into the big metal twisty slide tube, push off, go a few feet, and then stop. Hmm, I would have thought weight would be to my advantage on a sliding board. This is sad, but I basically had to push myself down the slide. That was so disapointing. At least I didn't get stuck, or cause a scene or anything like that.

So, I make my retreat out of Holidogs Fun Town. We skip the Star Spangled Carousel and the Liberty Launch and head for Rough Riders. Rough Riders is a nice bumper car ride that has way too many cars on the floor. We still have to wonder about the pickle barrel size "Soy Sauce" sontainer we saw in the maintenance room of Rough Riders, particulalry since we can't think of one item on Holiday World's menu that you would even remotely want to put soy sauce on.

From Rough Riders, we take a rare no wait ride on Paul Revere's Midnight Ride to confirm that it is still one of the best Spider rides out there. And again, we still seem to be just ahead of the crowd. At this time we cut through the Alamo and head to Thanksgiving. We come to Voyage and get up to the station and whats this, we have to wait. It seems the park was only running a single train on Voyage. On one hand I can't blame them when the line doesn't even reach 15 minutes single train, but that is a long time between dispatches.

After our first Voyage ride, we go and take the obligatory rides on Turkey Twirl and Gobbler Getaway, and then we went and took some photos of Pilgrims Pluge, we did not ride it because we didnt want to get wet. Remember that, it comes into our story later.

Formaliites out of the way, it was time to ride Voyage, we kept riding Voyage until about 30 minutes prior to park close. During that time we rode mostly in the heavenly airtime filled back seat, and even took the chance at a short wait front seat ride. In short we rode Voyage numerous times, an dit is still the greatest wood coaster ever built.

The park was slated to close at 5:00 so at that time we started heading to the front. Along the way we stopped off at Legend for another ride. Now Legend was running a single train, and we saw the train come back empty. There was no real reason to send an empty train except as bally for the ride. "Yes, we are open!" No love I tell you.

After Legend, we grabbed a quick ride on Scarecrow Scrambler before finsihing up the regular park day with a couple rides on Raven. After Raven we wash up and head to Kringles Banquet Hall. The banquet hall has all the charm of a church social hall, maybe even less so. Maybe youth camp mess hall. It has even less charm today as the side with the christmas tree was blocked off by a room divider.

Now, you know you are at a coaster event when, the ticket says dinner is from 5:30-6:30, you arrive at 5:25 and are almost LAST in line. Luckily they did have some sausage pizza, chips, pepsi, and phudge for us. While we were eating they were talking about the really nasty rainstorm heading right for the park. Soon, the announced they were dispensing with the previously planned program for the dinner hour, that instead of the Coasterbuzz stlye progressive ERT where you move from one ride to another as a group, that all three wood coasters would be open for the entire ERT, and that instead of 6:30, the ERT starts right NOW! Now being 5:45, they had to compete with the Will/Pat prerecorded close announcement. Then they had to stress to people not to scarf down your food as people were starting to do. As a bonus the park even passed out free ponchos. Is this the most courteous park or what?

Owing to ERT starting at 5:45, they hadn't fully cleared the park yet. Not a problem, they directed everybody towards Raven, and then had an event badge check to make the turn from Christmas into Haloween. We took a ride or two on Raven where Jeff Putz was trying out is nifty HD camera setup, then we stopped by Legend as a formality. We could feel a few light drops riding Legend. We knew it was time to high tail it to Voyage.

We did get a few Voyage rides in before the rains started coming down. Ouch that first rain ride stung a little bit, and it wasn't even raiing hard then. The walk down the exit ramp we played avoid the sudden down pour as we exited the ride, then decided to wait in the station for shelter. We saw one train dispatch into the pouring rain, then we saw it come back a few minutes later with soaked riders.

What happened next boardered on insanity. We know a rain ednduced Voyage ride is not to be missed, so we grab an available seat towards the back of the train. Yes, thats right, the rain is pouring down like the end of the world, and we are BOARDING the coaster train. Did we put on the free ponchos the park offered, of course not, what chance do you really give those things of helping in this kind of rain.

They locked the train, Will and Paula looked at the proceedings in sheer amazement and amusement at what we were voluntarily going to subject ourselves to. They dispatch the train. What followed were 3 minutes of absolute insanity. Oh the pain of being shot with thousands of BB's, but oh the joy of flying over the hills at "Devil May Care" speeds. I've referred to some past Voayge rides, like the ones in May as being insane but this takes the cake. What's more insane, we return to the station and there is nobody waiting for our seat. Oh well, we are already this drenched, may as well do it again. Can't get any wetter, right? Yes, we were the same people who didn not ride Pilgrim's Plunge becuase we didn't want to get wet.

After the second downpour ride, the park pulled the plug and announced it was closing. Okay, the park may not have stayed open till the advertised 7:30, but we still got a full hour of ERT, with an ending that will be remembered for a long time. Better yet those insane downpour rides were in the dark. We had it all.

Now we get to make our way back to the parking lot in the pouring rain, watch the pools of water forming on the walkways. Then, we had a light rain all the way home to Cincinnati, others reported they had storms, but I think that was becuase they were in such a rush to get to their cars. We were literally one of the last cars out of the lot.

A fuel stop, and a Steak N Shake stop then I headed home, and Rideman headed to Columbus.

Next Up: A Kings Island Fall Trifecta TR to end the coaster season, and a Vegas non-coaster TR.

Watch for them!