Trip Report: HoliWood Nights Weekend
Featuring stops at:
Holiday World (5/29-5/30)
Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (5/31)
Kings Island (5/31)
"A coaster event so great it included divine intervention"
Okay, welcome to the official start of the 2009 Summer season, preview weekends are over and itstime to start the main season with the Coaster Enthusiasts Family Reunion aka HoliWood Nights at Holiday World.
I started my day May 29th with the pre-event ritual, a buffet luncheon at the local Indian restaurant. Trust me, there is nothing like Chicken Curry, rice, and Nan to coat the stomach and prepare it for the three days ahead I would advise, however, not waiting until the day of the event to start getting your system used to Indian cuisine, lest you suffer the consequences.
When Rideman picked me up, he noted my American flag was wrapped around its pole, despite the fact I have a special pole that is designed to prevent that from happening. He comment s "I thought that wasn't supposed to happen with that pole" In truth it doesn't very often, but o solution is perfect. I then left Coasterville around 4pm which meant we got to deal with downtown Cincinnati during rush hour, which wasn't bad this year, we even sailed through Louisville and were thankful we weren't heading east. We were all smiles and making time until we got mid way through Indiana when the highway was cut down to one lane each way moving 40mph instead of the usual 70mph. That was painfully slow. Eventually we made our way to Exit 63, and I am surprised there isn't a traffic light at the exit, what with the number of people heading to Holiday World from points east, and having tomake a left turn off the exit. We then start heading down the 7 mile drive from the exit to the park chucking that this is the point where first time park visitors are pulling out their maps scratchng their heads.
It used to be the first sighting of the park was when you drove around the back of HoliDogs FunTown, then the Voyage became the beacon indicating you were nearing the park, now its Pilgrims Plunge you see first. We had heard Santa Claus got its first ever trafic light this year (they ARE red and green afterall), we had conjectured it would be at the intersection where you make the turn to go to either the Raven or Legend lot, but instead it is located at the turn near Fun Town. I guess it does help at the end of the night since anybody exiting towards Exit 63 has to make that left. Interestingly, we note evidence of a new road going straight at what was formerly a three way intersection, the new road might only be 50 feet long at this point, but it has arrows on the right side pointing in. We combined that with the recent news the park was negotiating more real estate to expand the Legend lot, along with evidence the Legend lot is undergoing a lot of work, that we conjectured there may be a time when the Raven lot will cease to exist as we know it, which will allow the park to expand to fill in the Raven lot, and all parking will be at the Legend lot and you will enter the park via the tunnel under the road, Kennywood style.
We pull into the Raven lot and try to vulture (or is that Raven) a space as close to the front gate as possible, always a fun challenge due to the layout of the front of the parking lot consisting of dead head rows where you pull in, find out the space you were going to grab is filled with a compact car or light stanchion and then have to back out of the row. We score a parking space near the front of the lot and do our best salmon imitation as we are trying to get to the park gate as swarms of people are trying to get out to their cars. We make our way to the front gate plaza and we find a nice crowd waiting at the check in windows and another crowd gathered outside the gates. Yep the reunion has started, as soon as people got checked in they were joining the crowd of people milling around outside the park waiting for the first night ERT.
Check in was an efficient process with two lanes for pre-registered people and one lane for ticket sales. I got to the window, showed my ID and ACE card, the checked my name, then handed me a t-shirt and my FUNvelope containing the usual contents: nametag, ticket strip with admission and meal tickets, and a coupon sheet. The check in hostess was taking the time to explain the ticket sheet, then handed me an itinerary after pointing out the key important parts. They even took the time to circle in highlighter the fact I needed to be there by 8:15AM or no Morning ERT for me. I pretty much decided right then and there that I would be bagging on the morning ERT. I also recieved a flyer for the CoasterBuzz event in the fall, I will take that event under consideration.
We then followed more Holiday World event ritual by quickly returning to our car to drop off everything except the nametags and the Friday night tickets. It may seem silly but we saw a space in the first non handicap row of the parking lot and so we moved the car up to what is literally the nearest non-handicap space in the lot. We return to the front gate plaza to join the reunion. The big topic of conversation was the closed rides board which indicated both Legend and Pilgrim Plunge were down for the day. We didn't linger long so we could take care of some post multi hour travel needs. By this time it was 6:40 and we weren't sure if they would let us enter the park now or if we would have to wait outside until ERT begins. We entered the park and the reunion moved to by the Appluase fountain. We chatted there until we heard Will and Pat Koch on the PA system announcing the park had been closed for 30 minutes, telling us about return visit offers, its a very friendly touch on the usual "Park's closed, get out now" recording. We noticed there were a fair number of general pubic also lingering about the area, and figured we would help the park be able to give the all clear for ERT if we moved on to the picnic grove.
We were walking towards the Picnic Grove when we met up with Pat Koch near the Alamo, and proceeded to walk part of the way to the Pincic Grove with her. I think we got distracted when we noted what might be the only test seat for a rapids ride. We entered the picnic grove just in time to hear the stories about Legend blowing a gearbox and a dedicated Holiday World staffer making a mad drive from the park to Cincinnati, OH to have the gearbox serviced, then making te dad drive back to the park, then getting the gearbox installed, and tested. Yes, they had it running in time for the evening ERT!!! The second story was about Pilgrims Plunge was down since Wednesday, it blew a shaft encoder, a specialty part that needs to come from the Intamin factory in Germany. Its status at the time was somewhere between Philadelpiha and a town just north of the park They apologized that Plunge would not be available for Friday ERT, but Will is refreshing the UPS tracking page every 30 seconds, and has the UPS agent in the local depot instructe to page him as soon asthe package arrives. Word has it that Will got the call at 5:30AM, and went out picked it up, and the park had the ride operational for Saturday morning ERT! We then went through a detailed explanation of the event schedule, during whch Dave Althoff got a shout out, a dishonrable mention for having to pay the Procrastination Tax, actually.
There wasa moment of silence for some fellow enthusiasts who had recently passed away, then we started Friday ERT.
We decided to head up to dinner first, noting the Legend was open, but instead taking a spin on the Raven as our first ride, hey it beats walkinng up the hill. Our first ride was in the front row of the back car and it was already performing nicely. We headed to Kringles Kafe where we each polished off 4 slices of Sausage pizza with its famous thick soft doughy crust, a pile of potato chips and a block of fudge. We met up with more friends at dinner, and after dinner just outside Kringles. Man I'm gonna miss somebody if I try to remember them all, but hello again to Klockster, the Drabeks, David Cornell, the guys from Texas, Kory and Chad, the dude who likes old rides who is building an aircraft we met in the bumper cars line, the Nungesters, and much,much more.
After dinner, it was time to ride,we continued Coaster Foreplay with another quality ride on Raven, this time in that wonderful back seat before heading onto Legend. Legend was a near walk on, we rode towards the front, and sure Legend was squealing and was only running one train, but lets remember it was down all day so let's just be grateful it was open. One ride on Legend, and we can say that the Legend is back! Legend had a spell when it wasn't really running as good as it did when it first opened, but these last couple years they have done a lot to get it back to the way when it opened.
After Legend, we made a stop at Hollowswings which the park had graciously substituted for Pilgrims Plunge. When we arrived the ride was running empty to drum up business, when we boarded there were maybe half a dozen peope on the ride, when our ride ended at least one lane of the queue maze was full. The ride itself was fun with the spooky music and is a lot smoother ride than the Zierrer. Hallowsings is a custom themed Zamperla Flying Trapeeze.
After Hallowsings, it was time to stop stalling and get ourselved down to Voyage. Voyage was a walk on in anywhwere except the front and back seats. We started wonering where everybody was, as it seemed like all the rides were walk ons, yet we saw a good size group in the picni grove. Our first Voyage ride was a middle car ride just to get on the ride, and we were impressed with that. Then we took a front car ride in row 2, and that was even better, then another ridein maybe car 3. Around the time we had started hearing people saw the back seat is too intense. We took that as a challenge, and headed to the back seat. Wow! Extreme airtime on every drop, a devine triple down, and the ride seemed to be running all out in extreme mode. Little did we now what we would be thinking in 24 hours, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
We continued to ride Voyage until about 10:15 (for a 10:30 park close), then headed to Raven so we would not have to walk up the hill by Raven. Thats not to say we didn't avoid the hill between Thanksgiving and Haloween, and we realized once again that Holiday World is a very hilly park. We finished night one with 2 or 3 back to back rides on Raven until they shut the rides down for night one. We headed out of the park, thanking Pat, Will, and Paula on our way out
We headed to our car, and then headed to our hotel in Tell City. It seems just about every hotel near the park charges at least $100 a night, but we found a Days Inn in Tell City for only like $61 a night. Obviously a lot of other Holiwood Nights attendees also found the Days Inn as walking the hotel halls we didn't spot one otherguest that didn't have a coaster shirt of some type on. After dealing with the uneven parking lot, and finding our room despite the misleading directions we were given by the desk clerk we soon found our room and settled in After getting the air conditioner cranked up, and electronics chargers charging we went out to source a late night snack. We first stopped at the Super WalMart Tell City, clearly the city's big hang out spot. Snack supplies sourced, we next found the only open food in Tell City, a Taco Bell drive through. I can't say it better than Rideman did when he said "You know somethings wrong when late night Taco Bell helps cure the digestive issues casued by the pizza" Dave, I'm telling you, coating your stomach with chicken curry does wonders!
We had alread made the decision to skip the waterpark ERT, well we also decided to sleep in knowing we had a late night ahead of us. I think we fnally got to the park around 1pm after a wild goose chase to Dale, but we did learn the Denny's has been moved, as has the freeway exit. By this time the Raven lot was marked as full, so we headed to the Legend lot and found a space within a reasonable distance of the tunnel. Evidence of a lot of work going on in the Legend lot os obvious as much of the back half is coned off, and it looks like they are building a tram circle in the front of the lot. A disused parking trams sits in the Legend lot. We go through the tunne and we can see the front gate straight ahead of just accross the Raven parking lot, unfortunately the park has built a chain link fence to ensure you can't cut through the lot, you have to walk all the way to the front of the Raven lot and walk around the perimieter of the Raven lot to the park gates. I know the park caters to a lot of children, but this just seems to be overkill, like they don't trust you with the basic skill of safely walking through a parking lot. I notice the park is also building a new tram circle in front of the park gates, which I think will probably be used for the Legend lot tram, as they already have a Raven lot tram circle and tram path along one side of the Raven lot.
We noticed no rides marked as closed, so we entered the park just in time for an anoyance rain to start coming down. We were hungry not having had breakfast or lunch yet, so we headed directly to the Plymouth Rock Cafe. We walked right up to the serving line where I opted for roast turkey, dressing, corn on the cob, sweet potato casserole, dinner roll, butter, pumpkin pie and a sweet tea, all for just around $12. It would be hard to find that kind of meal at that price at a casual dining restaurant outside of the park. Plymouth Rock Cafe still serves up good food, at a great value, but it still suffers from a bad bottleneck at the check out stands that it has had ever since it opened. I make my way out to a table, and I was pleasantly surprised to see apple butter on the condiment bar. We proceeded to sit down to lunch with Kory and his family. It was a great relaxing meal.
After lunch Rideman wanted to fetch something from his car, so I took a back seat on Voyage while I was waiting for him. Voyage, while running above average was not quite up to last night. I do, however, appreciate the free lockers for cameras and the like. After my ride I met up with Rideman who surprised me as I was expecting him to come down the hill from Halloween, and he instead entered through Splashin Safari.
We next headed to Pilgrims Plunge, the queue house was maybe half full and sports the largest cieling fan known to man. At the end of the main queue house is an ride attendant who has the job of controlling access to the ride. You see the people entering the ride from the queue area, and the people exiting the ride from the ride both enter this area where there are loose article shelves and courtesy lockers for your use. You get time to stow your stuff, remembering you can take your shirts, shoes and socks off for this ride. After you access the lockers this host has the job of making sure those enterting the ride head to the stairs to cross over the trough, and those exiting the ride head to the exit door. Once across the bridge over the trough you enter a holding area, it loook like five seat lanes except there are no gates in front, instead there is only one gate and people flow through the gate from the seat lanes in order front to back. They use a "the boats never stop system" which is all well and good, but I freak out and my sense of self preservation refuses to let me make the jump into the boat. After two attempts and about to give up, I ask the ride host if the boat can stop, and find out that yes it can.
The ride itself, first yoou go along a long meandering trough with a rapids section or two. You might get a slash or two here in the front of the boat, like we were. Eventually you come around to the base of the elevators. Here the boat waits for an elevator to arrive, then the boat raises almost stright up except for the fact the two elevator tracks bow outward to allow to elevator platforms to pass in the center while only have one 'station' at the top and bottom. Going up the elevator is just a wierd feeling, maybe even a bit unsettling. At the top the elevator lines itself, and you sit there for a moment or two before the boat moves off the elevator and onto the boat chute. The boat chute itself isn't that bad, the water spray is such that its hard to look at whats going on. As has been reported the boats don't make quite the splash you would expect, and at first I was thinking "That wasn't bad at all" and then WHOOSH a wave comes crashing into the boat. Row A you get damp but nowhere near drenched, at least that was my experience. You then go through the run out and a U-turn back to the station. This area has been outfitted with coin operated water geysers. The boats themselves have 5 rows of two seats with high seat backs and lap bars that drop down from overhead like on Intamin's newest coasters, exept these do not have seat belts. I am a rider with a nice size gut, and although Intamin rides generally cause me issues with rider fit, I found this ride to be very accomodating, and I did not experiene the lap bar staple, or the sudden lurch into the lap bar at the bottom of the drop I had read about.
We checked our watches and it was already 3pm, so its time to head to the Raven/Legend photo walk back. I like the way the park is doing it this year, instead of a sharp "You must be here at 3pm" rule, you could arrive anywhere between 3 and 3:15, which I'm sure in turn helped spread people out along the walkback trail so we weren't all bunched up together. The walkback started at the main gate to Splashin Safari so we decided to go through Thanksgiving as that seemed the shortest route. We were eager to take this walkback as it had not been offered in a few years.
We got to Splashin Safari and after a quick nametag check were admitted through the gate next to the Splashin Safari entrance, this admitted us to a path that goes between Frightful Falls and Splashin Safari. We paused to get a few photos of those two things, and then were guided to take the first path to the left instead of continuing back to go to part of Legend that goes alongside Slashin Safari. The first path to the left, takes you to see the frist drop, lift hill, and the part of Legend that crosses Frightful Falls. Once could also see the water treatment building for Frightful Falls. Some time was taken at each key point to snap action photos of the rides. After this we came to a part where one could take unadvertised backstage photos of the high dive show. You then continued along a path where you had the lower ravine section of Raven to your left, and the helix section of Legend to your right.
The tour itself, was pretty much a self guided tour, although the guys from Gravity Group and a Holiday World coaster mechanic were all there eager to talk about their favorite subject with coaster enthusiasts and answer questions. As you might expect give the chance some people would take all day taking photos and talking with the ride designers and mechanics, so there was a pace person who started the tour a few minutes after the entrance gate was closed whose job it was to keep the group on pace. As you might guess, this was where the pace person met up to us. We continued up a steed hill that wrapped around the Legend helix past the wood coaster maintenance shed where this year you can see wood, but in the past they had Banshee ride parts and the old Legend train. At this point you walk across the dam that blocks Lake Rudoplh from pouring into the park. The campground can be seen accross the lake, you can look down the hill on one side and see the ravine portion of Raven, or look on the other side and see the Lake Rudolph turn on Raven. We continues towards the LAke Rudolph turn, to finish up by walking alongside the first drop tunnel to return to the park via Rudoplhs Reindeer Ranch childrens ride area.
We looked at the new for last year Reindeer Games ride and then noted we didn't have much time before the Voyage photo walkback. We headed back down to Voayge, talk about back tracking today. We got to Voyage a bit early so we took the chance to get some Pilgrims Plunge photos. At this point we came across the major annoyance the park has just installed.
Let me put it to you like an old text adventure game:
"You have come to the end of the Thnksgiving Section, you look stragiht ahead and see a dead end where there is a Pilgrims Plunge observation area complete with coin operated water geysers, to your left you see a clossed gate clearly makred "Employees Only", upon further inspection you see another of the parks walkways on the other side of the gate, and you see said pathway being used by park guests much like yourselfs. These guests don't even have the coaster shirts or nametags on. To your right you see a walkway that leads to Pilgrims Plunge. Your destination is the Voyage service gate to your left, just past the closed gate that is currently being monitored by a park hostess. "
To solve this puzzle, you have to walk up the path to Pilgrims Plunge, following the signs to enter the ride, just before getting to the ride, you can walk through a gap in the fence to another Pilgrims Plunge observation area, with more coin op gesyers. There is a fence all along this path seperating you from the path you were just on. As you continue along, you go down a long windy ramp, so you can tunnel under Pilgrims Plunge, then up another ramp to come out just on the other side of the closed gate. Talk about irritating, and it is clearly irritating their normal park guests, I say this becuase when there isn't a park staff person present, folks were leaping over the closed gate. We're talking basic human behavior here, folks don't have much tolerance for long out of their way detours, and will, given the chance, try to circumvent them. I've seen it happen at several different parks. Classic example was when Kentucky Kingdom wanted to prevent people from taking a shortcut, they errected a series of obstcles - such as a park bench, then a fence, then a flower bed, then a hedge, then another fence, then a railing. That didn't stop folks from stepping up on the bench, leaping the fence, walking through the flower bed, trampling through the hedge, climbing the other fence, then ducking over the railing. Kentucky Kingdom, to their credit, finally decided to remove all that stuff and just create a path there rather than fight it. It just doesn't make sense to me, the park spent a LOT of money errecting that tunnel under the Plunge. I know they did it so they can have an attire checkpoint when leaving Splashin Safari, but if they have to put a monitor at the gate that person may as well be checking attire. They seemed to really overcomplicate this, when the easiest chepest answer would have been to have the attire check right after the Plymouth Rock Cafe, since Splashin Safari standards of dress are acceptable on Plunge. When Splashin Safari closes, then you close that gate.
Where was I, or yeah talking that long out of the way detour, the Voyage tour was much luch the onces in the past, except that now the service gate has been moved to almost the first drop. Its an out and back coaster, and this is an out and back tour along the same path. They did have the pathway on one side of the ride open all the way up to and just starting into the insane turnaround. Again more photos were taken, again the coaster mechanic and gravity group guys were on hand to answer questions or just talk coasters. After suitable time was allowed the group was paced back down the hill (Its a steep hillside Voyage is built on), and then back out the same service gate, where we took the same long detour back to Thanksgiving.
It was at this time that we decided we really should be riding some rides. We started with Gobbler Getaway where we met up with David Cornell. So in our car we had Dave Cornell, Dave Althoff, and Dave Bowers. Gee, I bet Dave is going to win! The queue maze was half full, I think the pumpkin pie spice smell is back, and with three in the car that really spreads the available points thin. Still, gotta love a classic style dark ride complete with crash doors and turkeys that taunt you at the end of the ride. Don't worry that our hapless farmer in the dark ride didn't have the heart to kill the turkey, ad they armed you with turkey callers instead of shotguns, becuase you can still have turkey at the Plymouth Rock Cafe just across the midway.
We skipped Turkey Twirl and Voyage for now (hey, we have massive coaster ERT tonight!) and headed u p into the main park. Since we were in a water ride mood, we decided to ride the Raging Rapids in Boulder Canyon which we usually skip. This ride was nearly a walk on and we got off mostly dry, and had more amusement watching our fellow riders avoid the water. I'm thankful the water curtain in the old town shut off just in time, and that the folks running the coin of geysers were also more interested in getting the other riders wet. This ride seems shorter than I remember it being in the past.
After the Rapids Ride, we stopped off at the Funnel Cake Factory for a snack of Fried Oreos, yumm yumm. From there we took a ride on Eagle's Flight. Eagles Flight recieved a new fully automated control sytem since my last ride on it, at least it retains its friendly operator. What's more, I actually had a good ride on it. No, I didn't get one snap out of it, but as is common for portable Flyers, although you may not get the satisfying KERCHUNK sound, you can at least get the feel of getting into a dive bombing, then quick pull out ride pattern. Its like its just a hair off from snapping then the tub pulls out of it without the payoff.
From there we walked right across the walkway and did a spin on Revolution. Not much to report here. We skipped Funtown as it was getting late, and besides neither of had much interest in trying to cram ourselves into Howler or the Freedom Train. Starting back towards the front of the park we noted we exceeded the weight limit on the Star Spangled Carousel, and I knew from past visits that Liberty Launch is a no go for me. We next took a spin on the Rough Riders, where wemet the guy who was talking old rides and aircraft. Friendly guy who stuck around for this ride and one on Paul Rever's Midnight Ride. Rough Riders, the cars re comfortable, the belts are comfortable, the cars look cool, the cars seem to have some power to them, its just that I think there are too many cars on the floor as it was just too congested at times.
Paul Revere's Midnight Ride continues to impress as being one of the nations best Spider rides. From here we decided the line for the car ride looked a bit long. We took a look in the Liberty Bell shop. Wait, the park that put Turkey Callers instead of GUNS on its shoot em up Dark Ride has a toy department in the gift shop with all kinds of toy weapons: swords, revolvers, all the way up to assault rifles, some of which shoot real "Safety" bullets.
We make ourway to the front of the park and start taking another lap, we talk to Will for a short bit on the way past Raven and then decide to skip the Scarecrow Scrambler and head for Frightfull Falls. FRightful Falls was a walk on and so we jump into the moving log. It should be noted that although Plunge caused me problems with jumping into a moving vehicle I had no trouble with the log flume or rapids ride.
When we finsihed up with the log flume, we took a look through the front gate shops and in a memonary lapse of judgement walk up Raven hill intead of riding up. AFter checking out the front gate shops, we run our cameras out to our car, and move it up to the front row of the Legend Lot, being nice not to park on the newly laid cement. We re-enter the park and make our way to the picnic grove dodging rain that got heavier and heavier as we go along.
We finally get to the picnic grove and first head to the shelter that had the auction. At first I thought we were too late but then realized the auction stuff was in the back half of the shelter. We grabbed some free drinks and perused the items.
The highlights of the auction were the perinally popular roller coaster lift hill flags, this time they came signed and bundled so you get the complete color selection for the coaster involved. They also had various advertising signs and banners, some signed Gravity Group t-shirts, and more. They also had a rummage sale with media CD's, stationary, old maps and brochures, old souvenir cups and more. They seemed to have a fair amount of bearings left, but the bin labeled Roller Coaster Wheels was already emptied. We didn't realize the food was setup until somebody mentioned they had finished eating.
We head up the stairs to the red shelterhouse to pick up dinner. Here I got my first clue that attendance was way down this year, as only 1 of the two big shelterhouses was open. We headed right for the buffet. We dropped our tickets off in the bin provided and proceeded down the line. Once again, we get to play "What toppings do we need?" befoe knowing wha is being served. I note buns, rolls, bread, relish trays, fruit salad, baked beans, mac and cheese, hamburgers, chicken and pull pork. We fix our plates and settle into dinner. Midway through dinner they make the announcements, sometimes interrupted by the pre-recorded "Will and Pat"closing announcements. Silent auction winners are announced and its time for the live auction. The big item up for bids was the original Legend drawings, that item sold for $500, which I think is a record for a Holiday World coaster event auction. They also sold a "Holiday World" logo flag that flew out in front of the park. I participated in that one up to $50,unfortunately for me it sold for $85. They commented they go through 3 such flags each season, which gives you an idea of the wear large flags take. Perhaps the most unique items sold were Kory and Chad from Gravity Group. Each sold one half hour of their time during the ERT. During that time you could ride rides with them, talk coasters with them, have them be your personal servant, etc. Kory mentioned he had brought his work laptop and that if you won he was willing to show you anything on the laptop that he was at liberty to disclose, including all about the new coaster in China. I think they also metioned they could design a coaster for you using their design software, just rmemeber you only have half an hour. I know Paula really made a big deal of this on Twitter, but I just don't think the fans were all that into it, leading to a "lets just get this over with".
Okay, the auction was over, but the rain is getting harder, then it gets much worse, the hail starts coming down, visibility is minimal, they asked people to huddle in away from the edges of the shelter, and they turned the lights on in the blue shelter house. We continue to talk coasters, and Paula provides regular status reports and sports scores. Perhaps showing off technology, Paula sent out a Tweet looking for the first person to come up to the microphone and say "They are testing the coasters" Such use of technology. Anyway about an hour late the coasters open and we make our way to Voyage. At this point we wait in the longest Voyage line of the weekend, it was down the stairs out the doors and into the outside queue area with the lower cargo hold being closed. We get up into the station, and we hold out for the back seat, this was actually easier than you might exepect as people were eagerly trying to get on a train, any train.
Remember everything I said about Voyage being in insane mode Friday, well forget all that. We have a new Insane Mode, perhaps we should call it InsaneX10! That train could not travel the course faster it it were jet propelled, It was literally flying over the hills, and taking the curves at breakneck speed. You know how when you see a working coaster model, it looks like the train is going rediculously fast beause gravity does not scale down? Well thats what this looked like. The airtime was launching you up into the lapbar, and the laterals were tossing you around like a ragdoll. As if it couldn't get better the lightning off in the distance lit up the sky adding a whole new dimension to the ride. Wow, I've said Voyage is the greatest coaster ever made, but there are few things likely to ever match the performance of the Voyage during the Saturday ERT in all of coasterdom.
After Voyage we head back to see whats going on with Pilgrims Plunge as I thought it would be a neat ride to try at night as it doesn't have that many lights on the drop. We enter the ride queue area and walk directly to the loose article shelves. Stowing loose articles we start to approach the ride as there was a boat stopped in the station and the exit gate was open. We were told we still need to cross the bridge over the load side, which we do. When we get to the load side, the load gate is closed. A few moments later, the boat waiting at the loading dock glides forward presumeably on its merry way out onto the ride course. The boat gets as far as the end of the station area and comes to a stop. The next boat comes up to the loading dock and stops. They do not load that boat, it then advances further and stops right behind the boat in front. They bring yet another boat up to the loading dock, but they don't load that one either. Something doesn't look right here. They then bring the fourth and final boat into the station, but there is no roomfor it so it stops on the top of the lift up into the station. That boat has one rider stranded in it. After doing all this we hear the crew talking to the people in the first boat, and it doesn't sound good. Some time later they come back to us, we are the only two in the queue and tell us it won't let them start the ride, but they are going to reboot the ride and try again. We wait a few minutes for the ride to reset, they push the dispatch button and the boat at the front of the platform still refuses to budge. They then bring out the infamous Intamin black box that releases the lap bars in the boats not located in the load/unload position. They unload the first boat, and the incoming boat then close the ride. At least they were nice enough to let us exit through the boat siting in the station. That was a waste of about 5-10 minutes.
We head back to Voyage and take many rides, each one more insane than the last, whats more incredible is even with it giving first rate rides the line was still completely within the station. We got a front car ride, another back car ride, and several middle train rides,doesn't matter when its giving out rides like it was tonight. You know you are in for a treat when jaded coaster enthusiasts who don't normally react after a ride coming back with looks of shock and awe on their faces and they are hollering and cheering.
When we had about 40 minutes left before park close we decided to check out the other rides, we walked up to the Legend with Kory and Chad who by that time had finsihed their auction obligations. Legend was running one train again tonight, and it was a total walk on, so we walked right on the back seat. Legend got the same insane transformation as the Voyage, and the Four Corners of Doom were living up to their reputation. I know some have written off the Legend as it had a few sluggish years but I urge you to give it another shot, it seems to be back to the way it was when it opened.
We finished the night with a half hour long, didn't even get out of the train power ride session on Raven. Not a bad way to finish off the event and yes Raven was also in insane mode. Tonight all three HoliWoodies were in top form giving rides us mere mortals usually only dream about getting .
We then headed up to the park exit, gave our thanks to Pat, Will and Paula, and then headed out to the Legend Lot. When we got to the Legend lot there were maybe 8 cars in the entire lot, so that made it quite easy to find our car. We returned to our hotel in Tell City, and yes Paul, I see what you mean by the rollercoaster like quality of that road. We no sooner got into our room until we crahsed for the night. Next thing I know, my iPhone is giving me the "You have one hour to vacate the room" alarm clock. We push check out to the limit and are then on the road. I noted the Indiana University logo statues in peoples yards remind me a lot of devil's pitchforks.
We decide sitting in single lane slow moving traffic on I-64 was not our idea of a fun time, and tried US 60. US 60 was moving about 60mph, and it runs pretty much directly to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (SFKK). Just after crossing the border into Kentucky, we found an IGA selling gas about 20 cents a gallon cheaper than the stations near Holiday World. Score!
We made our way to Kentucky Kingdom and make a stop on the way at Steak and Shake. Between the late check out, the time change, the drive to Kentucky Kingdom, and the lunch we didn't get to the park until almost 3pm. As we drove through Lousiville, we did not the firemen having one of their "Fill the Boot" fundraisers, which is not bad in and if itself, but when they park fire engines in the middle of the street with the lights flashing to draw attention to it, there should be a law. We were passing through right as some emergency vehicles with actual emergencies were having trouble getting through since people were ignoring the flashing lights after seeing the firetrucks being used as props.
Why do we do this to ourselves? It seems like our Kentucky Kingdom visits always come right after Holiday World visits, so maybe I'm not being all that fair to Holiday World. We pull into the parking lot and get hit with a $6 parking fee. One one hand its one of the lowest parking fees in the Six Flags organization, on the other its the first reminder we're not in Indiana anymore. So we give the state fair $6 to park on the fairgrounds then drive through the center of Kentucky Kingdom to the big lot in the middle of the fairgrounds. We drive up and down the aisles and my this lot looks busy, but who is to say what cars are there for the park, and what cars are there for other acttivities. We pull into the lot to the right of the main gate and find a parking space just a few feet from the entrance plaza.
We head to the ticket booths, and we see the employees in their new tennis ball green shirts. They do stand out, and they remind me of the shirts worn by employees at big sporting venues. We head to the one open ticket booth and look over our options. Rideman is set to buy the $55 season pass as he will be heading to SFMM in June, I have no such plans and note the one day ticket is $30. The park is also running a special, where you can get a 6 visit SFKK only pass for $30, and there is a chance I might get back here this season. I purchase the $30 Big Six pass, and the ticket seller hands me a voucher printed by the register and then proceeds to block out the section where you are supposed to fill in your information to register your pass. They direct Rideman to Guest Relations as he might get a lower pass price as he was renewing a 2008 pass. Unfortunately, when he got to Guest Relations he got the news that since his 2008 pass was isssud from Great Advenutre, he is not eligible for the renewal discount, but hey at least the ticket seller tried. We then quickly entered the park and passed though metal detection. I note that at peak times they have arrangements for "No Bags" lines and a seperate season pass gate.
We enter the park and head to the season pass processing center,yes I had to get a pass card for my Big Six pass. The line was just out the door and soon we were inside.You first head to a room where they have a bank of computers. You scan your voucher, then you do all your own data entry for the pass registration. I wonder why they don't just install a camera and printer at each terminal and completlely automate the process. After you enter your data the screen tells you to take your vocuher to the next room. In the next room they have the room devided into season pass processing and Big Six Processing, that way the workers don't have to worry about which passcard blank they are putting into the printer. We go to seperate halves of the room where agents take ou vouchers, scan them, they take our photos, and the same person hands us our passes. We pocket our passes and head into the park.
We walk past the games midway and I get my first dose of the "More Flags = More Fun"tagline. "Watching the Game = 3 flags on the fun meter, Playing the game - 6 flags" We head to the Himalayah, and after watching one cycle we board the ride. We procees to sit there as it takes about 10 minutes to get the Himalayah loaded and checked. We are rewarded for our patience with a slow moving ride. The operator though, seemed to be auditioning for the role of carney ride operator "Want to go faster, let me hear you scream!" "Want to go backwards?" It does neither of those things.
We exit the Himalayah and walk right onto the Enterprise just as it is being loaded, what timing. Its a fast spinning Enterprise which still goes completely vertical, which seems to be a rare thing for these rides anymore. I was a bit concerned with the amount of lateral shaking the ride was doing, but Rideman didn't seem all that concerend.
Next, we go to ride the Rainbow, or that was we were going to ride the Rainbow, but it seems it, like the Hellevator has been removed. The Rainbow does appear on the park map, but is not listed in the list of rides, last minute scratch, perhaps? Our next ride was Greezed Lightning, this coaster was a walk on as well, even for the back seat. Its a fast ride, you get launched forward, go through a loop, up the spike, back through the loop, through the station, up the back spike, and then down into the station. The good news is on the backwards trip through the station the were merely trimming the train rather than trying to stop it, so back seat riders get treated to that unqiue backwards airtime. We exit the ride and I start to notice something really annoying, the park has decided that any segment of fence that borders a ride must have a large "Danger" sign affixed to it. Yes, I have read about the incidents, and know exaclty why the park, or the parks lawyers, insisted on their presence, but after the first few its just overkill. I think some of my favorites were the "Danger: High Voltage Area" surrounding a gasoline powered Antique car ride, or Danger signs around the outside of the carousel railing, and one Danger sign placed right next to the entrance to the Rollerskater.
From there its to the Road Runner Express, which was using the short path to the station. The line was just to the bottom of the stairs, and we witnessed what might be the best ride crew in the park. The station can hold four cars, they had one car unloading (thanks to the lap bars releasing automatically), two cars loading, and then one car in the holding position waiting to be dispatched onto the chain as soon as the computer says it is okay. Unlike the rest of the park, this is the model of proper ride operation. This, of course, means this crew will be the crew that gets into trouble. We get sent to a car with just the two of us, so we eah take a bench and they allow us to sit in the middle straddling the T shaped lap bar. This pays off in spades ot on the course as it was a lot more comfortable in the hairpin turns. All in all, I had a much better experience on this ride than usual.
We next head down a long windy path past the Skycoaster (marked down to $15, sorry I don't fly for over $5), a Rio Grande mini train ride. The Rio Grande is a powered train ride, and was sporting the High Voltage signs, Rideman tells me the voltage involved to move that train is an alarmingly high 110 volts. We pass a disused games area that now sports a single vending machine inside a large empty area, and head back to Bluebeard's Bounty, the Pirat ride.
We head up the ramp and here is something that you don't see everyday, a push gate to get into the ride queue area. Guests have no gotten so accustomed to waiting behind any gate that the crowd seems to invariably stop at the top of the ramp until the ride operator indicates it is okay to push in on the gate an enter the queue area. The Pirat, while not the most cared for ride, still has its faux sails and rigging, which makes it better than the one at Kings Island in that regard. We were lucky enough to score an end row, and taking the advice to pick me feet up before we crested on our side, you do get some unique moments of something that might be liekend to airtime. The fully automatic, single position lapbars are a bonus for this park, helping this to be another ride that operates at a reasonable pace. At the end of the ride, you will notice the exit gates on the unload side have been chained shut, and you are instructed to exit back to the load side and they have further modified the confusing queue maze to allow for an exit path. You exit towards the now disued older picnic grove that is now reserved for use in the parks halloween event.
Finsihing that ride, we head back to the main circle loop path, we look at but do not ride the Breakdance. IT is evident the Breakdance, as well as several other things in the park got a nice coat of paint, however due to the modifications to the safety systems on the Breakdance that require every seat to be locked and unlocked by hand, we have ridden it and know the loading process is just entirely too long.
Okay, we have put it off as long as we could, its time to cross the darned bridge in the center of the park. The bridge that takes you from the front part of the park, over the fairgrounds entrance road and into the back part of the park. I swear this bridge gets higher and longer every season, even their own staff do not like it as the park staff can opt to use a ground level crosswalk. We get to the back side of the park, and we bypass several rides: The Giant Wheel, the rock wall, the go-karts, the entire waterpark. I note the waterpark has been renamed Splashwater Kingdom, rather than the former Hurricane Harbor name. I suppose given recent disasters, Six Flags thought it unwise to use the Hurricane name. I note the name is about the only thing that has changed as the theming looks to remain the same, right down to the use of what are commonly referred to as hurricane flags as theming. More Flags = More Fun, right?
We stop off at a wonderfully air conditioned comfort station, one of the things this park did do right, and I noted amogst the ammenities at the comfort stations in the park are cell phone recharging stations, for only $2 you too can have your cell phone battery rapid charged. No, I didn't try it out to see how well it works. I have to wonder how big of a market there really is for this. I also think this is a sign of the times, go to any decent size park anymore and look in the ride queues, you are likely to see people on their cell phones, not so much talking as texting, or playing games, or using the cellular internet connectivity. Those last two, particularly the internet functionality can really put a hurting to a phone battery. Every now and again I long for the days when going to a theme park meant the minute you left the house until the minute you got home, you were completely out of touch, and if you didn't have an answering machine, so much the better. Going on a two week vacation meant two weeks of being totally out of touch with the real world. I suppose you could still do that to yourself (I did in in Ireland last fall), but now we have been programmed to take our mobile devices wherever we go. Oh, where was I? Digressing, again. What a, uhm, surprise.
Anyway, Rideman reminded me of his distinct dislike for Chang, so I head to Chang alone. I breeze past the shaded but empty queue maze, note the fact the weeds and vegetation that had started to take over the ride entrance and exit have been trimmed back, and start to head up the stairs. The sign at the bottom of the stairs told me I was in for a 30 minute wait, and the line was just haflway down the stairs. I note the ride wait signs are "sponsored" by the parks pay-extra line jumping program. I think, this is a B&M and the wait is just down one flight of stairs from the station, no way its 15 minutes. I forgot three things: a) I'm not at a park that cares about ride throughput b) It's a B&M stand up, even Cedar Point decided to mothball a train because they couldn't get the trains out fast enough to run 3, c) this is Kentucky Kingdom where we only run one train, and take our own sweet time doing it. I mist have joined right after the line advnaced, because 1 circuit later I advance to the top of the stairs, two circuits later I am in the back seat queue, and three circuits later I am in the train. I take the back right 'seat' and struggle a fair bit to get the belt fastened, a feeling not unfamiliar to me on a B&M ride, but I do get the thing buckled all on my own. I head up the lift, around the turnaround and down into B&M stand up coaster goodness. I think there are 5 inversions on this one, all wonderfully intense, the mid course barely hits and all too soon its back to the station. Down the stairs and then a forced trip through the gift shop. At the exit of the gift shop, Rideman is pawin through a book, I ask what it is, and he indicated its a cheklist off all of Six Flags rides, in all of their parks - for $10. I don't buy one, but I think its a really neat idea to build chain wide synergy.
We then walk past the sites were a Chaos, a car ride, and several carnival style food trailers have been removed, to make way for waterpark expansion, namely the Mega-Wedgie (no, I am not kidding!), and Deluge waterslides. We also notice T^2 (Thats Terror to the Second Power, how's that for a geeky ride name) has a brand new entrance formed by cutting a new entrance way directly into the queue maze instead of routing people around to the old entrance at the backside of the ride. Signs laert us that a full queue house is a 2 hour wait, man what a depressing thought. Luckily the ride was only a station wait, but to say its only a station wait is both true and misleading as the seat queues can easily hold 6 trains worth of riders. We wait out the line for the back seat, dismayed by the one train operation on a weekend. After what seemed like almost a 20-30 minute wait we were on, and hey the wild hedge under the lift hill has been trimmed to the point where it doesn't brush your legs. That is an improvement. Using proper ride posture, we were able to escape the somewhat rough running ride mostly unscathed. We exit the ride, head down the exit ramp and look up at the transfer table. Uhm, I see a second set of bogies but no car bodies, and more importantly no seats on the other train. It's quite obious this ride has not yet been given its second train for this season, what are they waiting on?
We walk back and rejoin the main path, and all is not bad, I mean look they have Blizzard River open despite the ride clearly being marked as closed on the signs out front. We decline a ride on Blizzard River, I recall waiting almost 20-30 minutes in a line far shorter than the line it has today. We do take advantage of the misting fans on the main walkway. We get around to the former site of Top Eliminator Dragsters (man this park has ripped out a bunch of stuff since my last visit) you know its bad when a Six Flags park eliminated a pay extra attraction. The area around Top Eliminator has been converted to a live performace stage with a few benches. According to the park guide it hosts karaoke during the week, and live guest bandson the weekends. Today we had a band, that was alright, nothing that great. The band had an active audience of about 6 people, including 2 girls who were WAY to into it, as in I think they might have been family members of the band, or shills planted by the band to make it look better thn it really was.
I note the walkway back to where the actual Dragster ride, and Twisted Twins beyond has been sealed off with tall chain link fencing. We continue around the open path and walk under Thunder Run. Thunder Run has received a layer of tall privacy fence around its perimeter where it is near a walkway. Well, this will eliminate a popular line jumping spot/shortcut as the privacy fence seperated the queue area from the walkway. We enter the queue and its just to the bottom of the stairs, which is just past the 30 minute wait sign.
Thunder Run only has one train to start with, then they have taken lessons from Busch Gardens Tampa in that they check seatbelts first, then come back around to check lap bars. Add to this a crew that is in no hurrty to get things done, a safety spiel that they wait until after the train is loaded and checked to give, and we are talking a train heading out of the station every 6 minutes. Thats 10 dispatches per hour, and the train seats 24, no wait there is a seat roped off, 22 per ride. Thats 220 persons per hour on one of the parks major rides. That, my friends, is disgusting. After waiting entirely too long, the ride gets even more disgusting when I get into a seat, grab the seatbelt and find the two ends of the belt to have at least 2 inches between them. Did I not just spend two days riding wood coasters, in PTC trains no less, that are way more intense an airtime filled than this one? I take the walk of shame and console myself with a trip to the parks Ben And Jerry's where I order the biggest, most calorie laden sundae on the menu. Just kidding about the sundae, I do grab a lemonade to quench my thirst.
After that sad experience, we head to the Flying Dutchman. This is the wooden shoes ride sort of like a circle swing ride. It has a special spot for me as it is alledged to have come from Kings Island. In a brief moment of sanity, Six Flags actually removed the lapbars from the ride, going with just seatbelts. We take a nice relaxing wooden shoe ride, and I note the ride is mostly fully automatic, expect the turret stops lowering itself about 2' off the ground, and the ride operator lowers it the rest of the way manually. A neat fun ride.
We then notice a big privacy fence has been built behind the International Carousel flanking the restroom building blocking off the other entrance to the Northwest Territory. Add Twisted Twins, Mile High Falls, and Zeppelins to the list of rides that have gone out of service since my last visit. No wonder they sold me a six visit pass for only $30.
We finish up with a ride on Rollerskater, how come I can't ride Thunder Run, but I have loads of room in the cars of the kiddie coaster. We then make our way to the front of the park, again crossing that darned bridge. We take alook at Lonney Tunes Music Land (the parks kiddie rides area), surely putting the candy store in kiddie land is purely coincidence, right? We do a gift shop run through Exclusively Six Flags (shortened to just Flags on the park guide), and again I see nothing that even fits the description of a flag for sale. We also look in the Looney Tunes shop, where I am most confused when I come to an aisle stuffed with Mickey, Minnie, and their friends. Remind me again whose park I am visiting?
Even more confusing, Rideman asks me to look at a directional signpost located jut to the LEFT of the Himalayah, and asks me what is wrong with it. I look up and the sign clearly tells me to turn LEFT to go to the Himalayah, when clearly the ride is to the RIGHT. Rideman tried several times to get both the ride and the sign in the same frame, but just can't do it, so we look at another side of the signpost and it gets even worse. On the left hand side of the sigpost it indicates "<- Himalayah" , and the right hand side says "Himalayah ^", so this side is giving too conflicting directions to the ride, both of which are wrong as it should say "Himalayah ->" We spot an employee, not just any employee, but one wearing a suit and tie, we stop him, walk him over to the signpost and point the problem out to him. He could not have been less interested if he tried.
We then exit the park, and again I pass the "More Flags = More Fun" signs. Hmm, I still can't grasp the logic as to how the quanity of cloth decorations you have flying in the breeze correlates to the amount of fun the experience is. I mean I am a flag collector and have well over 200 flags (mostly desktop miniatures, but I do have full size versions of the flags for 8 different nations. If More Flags = More Fun, I should be enjoying a never ending fiesta. (Incidently, Spain or Mexico are not in those 8). Then again, its been pointed out to me that Voyage has 16 flags, and 16 > 6 so maybe Six Flags is right: More Flags DOES equal More Fun!.
But enough of that silliness, we head to the parking lot, and for grins and giggles plot Kings Island into our GPS. Hm, it tells us we could be in Kings Islands parking lot in 89 minutes, that 9:30, the park closes at 10. Do we try? We're coaster nuts, of COURSE we do!
We head up I-71 at legal speed and the GPS is actually a bit pessimistic as we pull into the lot at Kings Island at 9:26. The parking attendants have left, so FREE parking, not that we didn't have two valid parking passes with us. We go through that odd feeling of being salmon as we head to a park gate most people are heading out of. We througt perhaps the metal detectoon chechpoint was closed, but as we approached it a secruty guard walked up, scanned us, and we proceeded to the gate. At the turnstile, the ticket taker scans our passes and says "Last minute rides, Gentlemen?"
We head back to Rivertown and after a brief comfort stop get in line for Diamondback. The first queue house is totally shut off, and we head to the second queue area which is a little under half full. About 15 minutes later, we are being shown to a middle of the train ride in row 8. (No choice of seats). Somewhat bummed we still take our ride and get a decent amount of floater air, but its definetly no Voyage. We exit the ride and its 9:55, we race through the gift shop and zip back around and abck into line. This time the second queue area is maybe 1/4 full, so 7 minutes later we are at the top of the station stairs enjoying the fireworks. After fireworks we enter the station, and we hear the seat assignements of the groups ahead "14, 15, 16" Ugh, this doesn't sound good, we get to the front of the line "Go to row 1", are you kidding me, we practically do the 100 yard dash to row 1 before he changes his mind. So there it is, the last ride of an insane coaster weekend, on the front row of Diamondback, and I'm leaning over the clamshell which shifts your body position just enough to get a truly insane feeling ride on Diamondback, no wait, after Voyage on Saturday, I'm afraid I have to reserve insane for much more than this. Let's just say it was a great ride with strong airtime.
We exit the ride, and exit the park, and head to IHOP to end a great coaster weekend. I get home, and guess what the American flag is wrapped around the pole again, we chuckle as it looks just like when Dave arrived to pick me up, and I had fixed it then.
Next up: Who knows! I have an invite to a private party at Strickers Grove on June 21. I am also in arrears 7 trip reports, all to Kings Island, why I am I not looking forward to digging myself out of that hole?