Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, November 26, 2011

TR: Cedar Point - September 1st and 2nd, 2011

Trip Report: Cedar Point
Sandusky, OH
September 1 and 2, 2011

Those who have been reading my trip reports for a long time now, may recall the many coaster trips I took with Eric. Those became fewer after Eric moved away, and lately it seems as if there is always something stopping one of us from meeting up. This year, I received an interesting offer. It seems that Eric would be celebrating a significant high school reunion, at a school in Ohio. He also planned on stopping at Cedar Point for a few days, and had to drive right past my house on the way to and from. Would I like to come along? I think yes.

Getting time off work was at a premium, such that Eric left work, far away right at closing time, and arrived at Coasterville around 2am. He has been using a Garmin, and it is scary how accurate that thing is at predicting arrival time. He doesn't have a Cedar Fair pass anyway, so we figured we would go up for Starlight on Thursday, and all day on Friday. Consider it akin to the Hersheypark night before offer.

So after he got ample sleep, we stopped by First Watch for some breakfast, and was on the road. Remember how I said it was scary how accurate Garmin is? Well Cedar Point starts Starlight at 4pm. We left Coasterville at the time Garmin recommnded, and even with a refueling stop, and a stop to check into our hotel, we still were on the famous Cedar Point Causeway at 3:45.

We first noted the topiary bushes alongside the Causeway, then noted only one toll booth was open. Hopefully, this is a sign of the size of the crowd at the park. We start driving through the parking lot headed towards Eric's favorite section. we were not amused when this family decided to walk five abreast, in the main aisle, slowly, while giving us shit eating grins, because they know, there really isn't anything you can do about it.

We found ourselves in stride, such that we hit the ticket scanners right at 4pm, and I used a Cedar Fair pass, and Eric used a Starlight ticket. We proceeded to breath in the Cedar Point atmosphere as we walked back the main midway. We could see evidence that they were starting to set up for their Halloween event. We get back by Wildcat, and notice it has a pretty short line for Wildcat.

We start our trip with a quick peppy ride on Wildcat, sure its not the biggest, fastest, whateverest, but it does pack a lot in a tight compact package with its sharp drops and helix turns. I note a loading gate has been after the turnstile that is remote controlled by the loader.

After Wildcat, we proceed to the train station and take a quick glance at the display about the historical trains Cedar Point owns. We then proceeded to take a ride on one back to Frontier Trail. The ride back offers you a great view of Lake Erie on one side, and Intamin coaster goodness on the other.

We were seated near the front of the train, which means you exit quite near Mean Streak. We decided to get Mean Streak out of the way. We recalled a couple years ago, before riding The Boss at Six flags St Louis, a coaster that most people don't like that "Here comes the pain", and were then surprised by a ride we actually really liked. I wonder if the same trick will work here. Mean Streak was its usual walk on self, and I took a moment to look in awe at the massive queue area tucked into the middle of the ride. We took our seats in the back of the train and proceeded on the larger of Cedar Points wood coasters.

Mean Streak, the first half is actually quite decent, it doesn't really beat up up anymore, the rides problem is after the mid course brake, the ride is brought to a slow crawl and you just sort of meander through the rest of the course at a crawl. At least we got that out of the way for the trip.

Next, we headed to Maverick. This would be Eric's first time on several Cedar Point rides, and Maverick would be one of them. The signs said 15 minutes, I have me doubts as the most but not all of the covered section of queue was full and the bridge was full almost back to the first section of queue. It does move rather quickly though, and pretty soon we found ourselves at the split. I see they still have the stupid single rider line you can't even get to until after you have waited through 90% of the queue. Anyway, while waiting for our train, we note the complex system. The ride runs very short trains, only 3 cars each with 4 seats in a car. However, it has 6 of these and the ride really runs 3 pairs of trains. What do I mean? When you load, they load two trains at once, so 24 people per load, like a normal coaster. Then, both trains depart the load station, the front train goes on up the lift, the second gets held just short of the life until it gets the all clear. Both trains, now separated, now run their way through the course, and then they pull in one behind each other in a line of trains waiting on the brake run. Trains are then brought into the station from the brake run in pairs, and the next set of trains move up to just behind the station.

We would be in the middle car of the back train. Drop the OTSR, the belt fastens easily. The first gimmick hits when you realize it is a launched lift hill, the second gimmick hits when you realize the drop is at a 95 degree angle, that is to say beyond vertical. The rest of the ride features sharp turns, some nice airtime hills, corkscrew like rolls. Oh, and the mid course tunnel where the ride brings you to a near stop, only to launch you again. I think they got rid of the fire hose that used to spray down the riders, but all in all, still a great ride.

After that, we passed Snake River Falls, and Eric mentioned that he had never ridden it, nor have I, and that he didn't plan on changing that on this trip. He did, however, want to try out Skyhawk, an S&S Screaming Swing. They had the entire queue maze shunted off so you walked right up to the turnstile. This caused the line to overflow onto the midway which is atypical for Cedar Point, but I noted by the tie we had ridden, the queue maze was indeed open. Maybe the park is getting busier for starlight. At any rate, they only had one half of the ride working, and the other half showed signs of repair work in progress. Also, atypical for Cedar Point, we have a non coaster ride that gives an above average ride experience with that weird "airtime" caused by your body still wanting to go up, even after the swing has forcefully started going back down.

From Skyhawk, we went to Cedar Creek Mine Ride to experience a classic. After shoehorning ourselves into the back seat, with both the typical Arrow mine train lapbar that is too tight, and the typial Cedar Point seat belt that is too short, we managed to ride this classic mine ride.

From Cedar Creek Mine Ride, we started our way back towards the front of the park, we got almost to Gemini before we realized we forgot to check out Shoot the Rapids, and figured we would come back to it tomorrow during the day. Gemini is one of the parks other classics. It is one of those Arrow "steel tracked wood coasters" that caused much debate in coaster forums of years past. It is a steel tracked racing coaster that follows a very classical wood coaster profile. Today, only the red/orange side was running, and at least one blue train looked to be partially disassembled. Again with the way too short seat belts that barely fasten on an empty seat, let alone one with riders. We shoehorn ourselves into this one as well, and I thought the ride was running sluggish this year. It didn't seem to have near the amount of airtime that I remember, yet the final helix can still yank you into next week.

Continuing our little tour, we next came to Magnum XL-200, one of the first coasters to break the 200' height barrier. 22 years ago, that was a BIG DEAL, I know, I went to Cedar Point in 1989 to ride it, when the entire queue maze, plus the overflow that runs behind the restrooms was packed to the gills. Lately it seems to be another dependable short wait ride, such as the walk on it was today. That is one thing, except for Maverick and Skyhawk,every ride so far has pretty much been a walk on. Looks like we hit the park on a good day.

Magnum is a great coaster, you start with the 200' drop, and while you go up the lift you get a nice tour of the water park, and they claim on a clear day you an see clear into Canada. After you enjoy the view, its a classic airtime hill laden out and back masterpiece. It has the profile of a classic out and back, just exaggerated for height, with a funky little pretzel turnaround tossed in, and of course those airtime hills were carefully calculated to produce the most airtime possible. And to make sure you get to experience this all undisturbed, all the mid course block brakes are at the end of the ride. We took our ride in our favorite seat, #3, also known as The Ejector Seat. The Joy and the Pain of airtime coming right up. Yes, it is very strong ejector air, and if you don't take precautions it can do a number on your legs. You will feel it after the ride, but you'll be too caught up in excitement of having just finished an extreme airtime coaster to notice.

You may be noticing I have been dancing around some rides, rides like Raptor, Top Thrill Dragster, Wicked Twister, and Millennium Force. Well, it's just that on recent visits we have had negative experiences involving not being able to ride those, and we didn't want to ruin this trip right off the bat.

Well, now we are passing Top Thrill Dragster, a coaster I have never ridden (notice the tense, spoiler alert). I go first in the Test Chair of Doom. Over the last however many years I have really grown to hate this chair. On my last visit, two years ago, I couldn't get the belt fastened, and when I say that, it wasn't even close, like a good inch or so between buckle ends. Well, I have lost some weight since then, I have gained some back since then. Now, I can fasten the belt! Don't start celebrating yet. Cedar Point has this asinine policy I have not seen in any other amusement park. No, they aren't satisfied that the belt is fastened, they want the belt fastened and a certain amount of extra belt through the adjustor. How much extra belt? Well, that's another asinine thing, it depends on who you ask. Anywhere from a quarter inch to an inch. On Maverick, I note they have stitched in a white line, no such thing here, it is all subjective. Luckily, there is not one, but two greeters stationed less than 5' from me. Great I can get two opinions.

I would have probably been better off had their been one greeter. The problem is that the two greeters were very engrossed in a very non park related conversation. How engrossed, they wouldn't even acknowledge our presence when we were looking right at them, talking to them. When they did finally notice us, we were a big bother, obviously they wanted nothing to do with us, let alone help us. Eric tried the seat next, and he managed to get a bit more slack out of the belt than I did. Our two ever so helpful ride attendants verdict, "Maybe". Said with taking about a half a second glace over at the test seat, then right back away from us and into planning their weekend. What you want us to wait 45 minutes on a Maybe. Some help you two were.

But, I figured that if Eric is a Maybe, then I can forget about it. We decide to go and see if the Millennium Force greeter would be any more helpful. He was! It also helped that I think the belt on the MF test seat is a bit longer than that on TTD, as I had a much easier time with it. So great, now we are both cleared to ride MF, but the ride is closed.

Let's see, what areas of the park haven't we been to yet. Oh, Oceana, and it has some changes. The big chance is that Ocean Motion has been moved to the spot formerly taken up by Demon Drop. The beach gate has been moved a bit, the area that was opened up was filled in with their Windseeker.

I think their Windseeker has even less queue area than the one at Kings Island. I wonder if this is because they figure once the initial craze wears off, that its not going to be that popular a ride, particularly since it does handle 64 people a ride, as opposed to the 20 or so on most flat rides. Or, are they trying a tactic learned from Roller Coaster Tycoon, where they have gotten people used to thinking, an oveflowing line is too long. At any rate, they do have a sizeable portable queue area available under the stadium grandstands next door. Today, it was just in the permanent queues, so you walk about a third of the way around the ride, where the only thing separating you from the outside world is a tall fence with spike like points at the top, then back around to the front, where you go through the turnstile and assigned a seat. I want to say the Kings Island ride has every individual seat numbered, where at Cedar Point it is just every row. Same general concept, and same general ride. Right down to the problem with the lap bar lights not being visible.

Windseeker is one of the trendy new high altitude circle swing rides. It's essentially much like Wave Swinger, only the swings go up to just shy of 300' in the air. The height really does make the ride, and its also what makes peoples phobias get the better of them.

I think by now Zamperla, Mondial, and FunTime have versions of this ride to market, and I would not be surprised if its on the drawing boards at other manufacturers. I have not yet ridden the Zamperla version, but I have a feeling I may get that experience with Sparkler next year (see the benefit of writing these trip reports so late), but I have some experience with the Fun Time version both in Orlando at Magic Midway, as well as Oktoberfest in Munich. Kings Island has the Mondial version, and the main difference here is the seat attachment is much more rigid than on the Fun Time. Don't get me wrong the swings still swing, but the main attachment is tubular piping instead of just chains or steel cable. The Mondial also has a fantastic LED light show that gives a park that classic midway experience.

I take my seat, drop down the overhead lap bar, which is similar to the kind used on a chairlift. A safety strap connects the lap bar to the seat base, as a back up to the bar lock. I can tell you, as a larger rider, the rides computer is more demanding than the seat belt, so just because the belt is fastened, doesn't mean you are good. A rule of thumb is to look at the stub end of the lap bar, it it isn't lower than the armrest, your in trouble. Mondial did something dumb here. They mounted two lights on the outboard side of each seating unit. When the lap bar locks, the light goes out. Seems simple enough except the light is red, on a red background, and once you add the sun into the equation the loaders can't really see them. The advice from the control booth isn't much better "You've got a bar open" Gee, thanks. Warning to larger riders, even if your bar is fine, you will be the first ones they target, and will staple you in the hopes that you are the culprit. This is more annoying when they find out you weren't the problem. They really need to add some kind of box around those indicator lights so the loader can see them easier. This ride loads much faster at night than it does during the day.

So once they have spent 10 minutes playing "Which bar is loose?" the ride starts. At first the cars raise straight up for awhile, before the ride starts turning. The ride does offer on board audio by means of speakers mounted to the ride gondola, so the speakers raise and lower with you. At the top the ride spins for a while, and even speeds up. Not too fast, it just gives a slight hint of laterals. It would be a perfect family ride, if people would get over that whole 300' up thing. The Cedar Point ride scores over the Kings Island ride in three categories: Location, Location, Location. Set so half the way around you get a great view of the park, and the other half a great view of Lake Erie.

So, the ride then slows down to its slower spin setting, and then lowers down. Again once it hits some magic point, the rotation stops, and you lower straight down. That was great, in fact I rode it again. This time in the outside seat instead of the inner seat. No, it's not a thrill ride, but it scores high on the just pure fun meter.

From Windseeker, we learn that Wicked Twister is also closed, not a good day for the Intamins, but wait there is another Intamin ride back here. We make our way into the newer Disaster Transport entrance now that most of the queue has been given over to haunted houses. Now it is just the final room, which is kept just dark enough sot hey can try to sell night novelties, I suppose that was better than the 3D glasses that littered the sides of the brake run in years past.

Disaster Transport is one of those old Intamin Bobsled rides in a box. Lots of black lights, and a futuristic feel. You board a sled, go up a lift hill, then the ride is mostly turns and he car riding up a bit as it changes direction just like a real bobsled. There are some ark ride type elements you breeze past, but there are not really important. With that we exit back onto the midway and make our way to Pinks.

Pinks is a new eatery that is supposed to represent the Hollywood hot dog stand. We were going to try it, but it was already closed for the night. We then cut across the main midway to Raptor.

It was a walk on ride on Raptor. In 2009, I could not ride Raptor, but this time, no problem at all. Raptor is one of the earlier B&M inverteds, but it is still a great ride. After the ride, we finished off our night with a ride on the classic Blue Streak.

Blue Streak is the parks classic older wood coaster. The entrance looks like you are going down a service path, but the ride is a classic. In fact, they have done amazing things with it, as in certain seats, like the Schmeck seat, or the back car, it delivers some great airtime.

With that, we stopped by BW3's for wings and beer, then headed back to the hotel.

Day 2: Friday Sept 2.

We got some doughnuts and coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and got to the park right before 10. This time the parking attendants were out, and parking you where they wanted you to park, even though where they send you may not be the best parking available. On the way to the park, we noted that Sandusky, like many toursit areas is begining to have fierce competition from indoor waterpark resrots. Kalahari, Great White, Cedar Point's own resort, and I'm sure a couple more. I noted the Holiday Inn holidome looks to have tried to make the conversion into a waterpark, but has since been closed. In a way that is a shame, since I think the holidome was the forerunner of hotel indoor recreation complexes. The wierd one is the one right before you turn onto the Causeway, going with the trendy one sylable name: Rain, it looks from the road to be a tiny indoor waterpark, attached to a motel, off track betting parlor, and sports bar.

We decided to start the day at Top Thrill Dragster, and true to Cedar Point, it seems to take just under 3 hours to walk from the front gate to Dragster. Well, at this point, for reasons the reader doesn't need to know, we decide to split up, and I fall right back into "Cedar Point Ride Program 1"

Yup, I used the touring plan I usually take with Rideman. I knew better than to try TTD, so I headed to Magnum. Going up the stairs for this walk on ride, I told myself I wasn't going to ride in the Ejector Seat. But, what do you know that's right where I wound up. It's actually an easy seat to get to, because that end of the station is so cramped people can't get around the front seat line to get at it. That doesn't mean you don't have to be agressive, but still. So, I started with a Magnum ride that worked way better than the large coffee I just had at waking me up.

From there, I followed the ritual, on back to Gemini. I think the most noteworthy thing about Gemini is that this time they were running the blue side. I took about the third seat on the Blue side, noted the "Track Brake Open When Lit" sign was lit both when my train left the station and when it returned.

Continuing the pattern, I headed to Mine Ride, but Mine Ride would not open until 11. That's not that far away actually, I use up most of the time riding Skyhawk, which had just about the same line and ride experience as yesterday.

Now, its time for Mine Ride to open, so I was on the second train in the middle seat of the back car. That seat affords more room as you don't have the boxcar front, nor the wheel well behind you. Much better this time.

Now Ohio had been going through a very wet spring, followed by a sweltering hot summer, then it had cooled off the last week or so. Today, over 100 degrees. I decided to see what Snake River Falls was about. Snake River Falls was a walk on seeing as t had just opened. I took a seat in row 1, and headed up the lift, at the top you go through a tunnel, and then down the big drop. Like a lot of the early shoot the chutes rides, this one is no nonsense, also like a lot of the early shoot the chutes rides, it is very effective at getting you drenched.

Okay, now that I am drenched, lets find Shoot the Rapids. The exit for Snake River actually helped put me in the right direction, as Shoot The Rapids is alongside the frontier trail, just across from the closed for the season rapids ride. Shoot the Chutes is an Intamin, like Pilgrims Plunge, but unlike Plunge, the boats do stop in the station which I like. I do find it interesting they didn't motorize the loading gates. They are mag locked, and spring loaded. When it is your turn to board, you are supposed to push them open and board, but there is no signal they are unlocked. You know, for those of us from my era, i they would install a little buzzer that would sound when the gate was open, I bet a lot of us would have a pavlovian response to open the gate. So the boats are about like Pilgrims Plunge with the overhead lap bar and all. The ride is a whole lot more complete than Plunge, first you have a long disorienting lift approach tunnel with misters, then lift 1, then the first big drop and run out. You then go through a rapids like section (hence the name) with waterfalls that all but encourage you to rock the boat to try to avoid getting wet. Then it is up lift 2 for the big drop and run out. My word of advice? Ride BAREFOOT, your feet will thank your for it. After drop two, the floor well of the boat fills with a least a foot or more of water, and stays filled until the unload station. At this point, with the lapbar you can't raise your foot enough to get it out of the pool of water. A minute of this will lead to the squishiest shoes, and soaked socks. That is really the ride's only downside, other than that it really came out great.

After that I took a ride on Maverick. The line for Maverick was just a little longer today than yesterday, with the covered portion full, the uncovered portion closed off, but the line was starting to overflow into the midway. Cedar Point, won't have any of that, so right after I enter the line, they open some of the unshaded queue area. I remind myself that the line really isn't any longer if they open up more sections of the queue after you have entered. I did find it interesting they did not open the parts that would offer access to the vending machines. I know yesterday, I laughed at the single rider queue, but today, when I got toward the covered section of the queue, I noted no one going for single rider, so I darted up those stairs at first opportunity, and bypassed a trainload or so of people. I know, not really a big deal. They have stopped assigning seats, so alll single rider does, is when an odd number group from the main line enter the trunstile, they let one in from single rider. I think it is encouraged yoou mate up with the odd rider. We wound up in row 2 of the front train on Maverick and proceed to have another awesome filled ride of Intamin goodness.

From Maverick, I head over to get the daily Mean Streak ride out of the way. I enter the queue I get about halfway to the turnaround, where, speaking of turnarounds I note people coming my way, I look over and people are coming down the load stairs. This has all the signs of a ride closure. You know, there are some ride closures that you stand in front of the closed ride for 15 minutes sulking about life not being fair, there are some that register as a disapointment, and then some you go :Oh, well". This falls firmly in the "Oh, well" camp.

I head down the Frontier Trail, where I note them getting the old Frontier Carousel building, and Rapids Ride area ready for haunts, as well as general theming in the area. It's the last area of Cedar Point that hasn't been lined with thrill rides, and as such offers that nice relaxing, shaded walk. At the other end, you find Millennium Force. I enter a 45 minute Millennium Force queue, which is to say just the last section fo queue maze was open. I am a biit more nervous than usual, I mean the test seat says I am fine, but what about the actual train. For a short time, it looks like the ride went down to two trains, slowing things down even more. Eventually, I make it to the station and take the first available seat. I fasten the belt, pull the tail, drop the lapbar and hope for the best. I really got scared when the loader got near me, and made the upbar hand signal. Luckily, it was for the rider directly behind me. So, I am cleared for takeoff. The rider next to me asks if I am nervous, and I ansswer, no, just relieved since it has been something like 5 years or so since I could ride this. The ride starts with a very steep, very fast launched lift hill, then into an overbanked turn, before you go through the tunnel to the twisted track that is on the island. Force is 300' tall, but the airtime, while there, isn't near as violent as Magnum. A lot moe gentle floats, and showing that you can do interesting things with curved track. I am real glad I was able to ride this again. I think I did the Dance of Joy all the way down the long exit ramp out onto the midway. You may recall in RCT when the riders would stop at the end of the exit ramp of their favorite ride and jump up and down. I briefly cosidered that.

Walking across the street, I next took in Mantis. Mantis should have been a near walk on, as the line was only back to the top half of the final staircase. A train later and I was positioned to board row 8. That's when it happened, a Mantis train pulls into the station, and one of the riders is puking their guts out. Okay, this shouldn't be too bad, they will unload it, hose it down, spray some sainitizer, run the train empty a couple cycles, but still use the other train But wait, there's more! The sight of the rider in the train puking their guts out started a bad case of chain reaction puking in the load station. When all was said and done, they had to move everybody up into the front half of the load station so they could completely hose down, and wash with some kond of chemical, the back half of the load station The mic man tried to keep those of us waiting entertained. "You want to know what the best thing about working at Cedar Point is? Well, this isn't it!" Some time later, they decide to load a train, and they do something unusual, since they were concerned about people slipping on whatever they used to wash down the station floor, they loaded rows 5-8 all through the row 5 gate. As it was, I was in the back left 'seat' on Mantis. Another eay fit, and its up and away on the stand up rollercoaster. It has the usual B&M intensity, and as usual I spend the next 2-3 minutes walking off the feelings in my lower legs.

From Mantis, I again cross the street, and note that Wildcat has about the same line it had last night, so I grab a ride on the Wildcat. I follow that up with a walk on ride on Iron Dragon. Iron Dragon has not recived the belts that Cedar Fair has seemed to have put on all their other arrow multi element trains, inclding the suspended coaster at Kings Island. That may be becuase Iron Dragon is a lot tamer ride. It is a two lift suspended coaster that was considered extreme when they showed the ads for it in 1987. The part after the first lift is really lifeless, it gets better after the second lift is a bit better but theat may be due to the interation witht the lake below.

After Iron Dgraon, I really need to get a drink, or something, maybe the heat is getting to me. The pepsi cart by Coasters is like an Oasis as I graba soft drink before contining. Next up is Power Tower, and it is a walk on, so I ride both sides. Power Tower is still in Sour Tower mode as there is just no airtime force at the top. S&S makes a shorter ride called the Double Shot that does way better in the airtime department. At least the ones at Ocean City, NJ, and Indiana Beach offer good airtime. Double Shot combines the upwards thrust of the Space Shot, with the faster than frefall downwards thrust of the Turbo Drop. But, Liberty Launch at Holiday World shows that the strong airtime is not a sure product of the Double Shot, as well as Dr. Dooms Fearfall and the Big Shot showing that a Space Shot alone can produce good air, just not on Power Tower. Power Tower is a 4 tower complex, with only three open today, 2 drops, and 1 shot. Makes sense, since the Turbo Drop ride experience is longer, with the having to slowly raise the gondola to the top of the tower.

After Power Tower, I make my way to Corkscrew. Since Cedar Point is in the middle of Big Ten country, you know how Big Ten has Legends and Leaders didvisions? Well, at Cedar Point they have botht he record breaking new technology "The Leaders", mixed with some olde ride technology that was top of the line in its day "Legends". Corkscrew is a legend, and so I took a walk on ride in the back seat. Corkscrew may have been the ride that started putting the belts in the Arrow cars. I'm glad to see they replaced the original installtion with a more customer fiendly version they have used at other parks. Corkscrew is not the generic out of the box corkscrew ride from Arrow. You may recall that one was a compact coaster - turn out of the station, up the lift, turnaround, down the drop, , turnaround, through the corkscrew, then turnaround one last time onto the brakes. No, Cedar Point Corkscrew is more of an out and back. On this one you take one of the patriotic themed trains, and do a turnaround out of the station, up the lift, down the drop, through an airtime producing speedhill that would be great fun if it weren't for the shoulder bars, then a vertical loop into the turnaround. On the way back yoou have the rides signature corkscrew element which is placedsuch that you actually go over a major park walkway, then onto a very long brake run, capeable of holding all three trains.

From Corkscrew, I continue witht the Legends. For a long time, the park has offered a low key ride called the Paddlewheel Excusion. It's a slow, family ride where you ride in a faux paddlewheel boat in the lake around the big island. It seems, this year the ride is closing. Now, it usually closes after Labor Day, becuase they use the island in the middle of the lake as a haunt and use the floating bridge from Geauga to get people to the island, which blocks the route for the Paddlewheel boat. Now, when I say Paddlewheel boat, don't think of the big boat ride at Disney, instead think of Jungle Cruisse size boats. Very fitting analogy, actually becuase the cruise route is dotted with tablueax that the skipper would introduce in comedic fashion, on a pun filled ride. Yes, this was Cedar Point's Jungle Cruise. Well, next year the park is leaving the floating bridge up all season, as the island is about to become a pay extra Dinosaurs Alive attraction. Hey families, we have a new family attraction for you, at the expense of another family attration, and you have to pay extra for it. Great. I hear they just got new canvas canopies for the boats too, that figures, as at Kings Island, King Cobra had been rumoured to be removed for 5 years before it actually was. I think it was removed the season after it got a complete overhaul and paint job.

I don't have the strong nostalgia attachment to Paddlewheel Excursion that some do, but I wanted to get in my last ride on it. I head back to the dock, which is somewhat hidden behind Camp Snoopy. Doesn't this figure, usually when I ride this, I merely have to wait for the next boat. Now that the ride is closing forever in 4 days, the line is spilling out onto the midway. In the hot sun. I think Cedar Point wanted this wait to look as long and uncomfortable as possible. I think they were only running 1 boat as well. I say look, becuase when you finally did make it into the big shelter, they had the line configured to take the shortest route to the turnstiles. 30 minutes later, I was being loaded onto a boat. For the last time - the Svillians (Civilians) from the Barber Of Saville, the Lighthouse (95% lighter than other houses), the crazy inventor and his flying machine that never got off the ground, and much more. They say on these types of riders the skipper makes the show. In this case, the Skipper was doing everything right, he was telling all the right jokes, and seemed into it. it was the riders who sat there stone faced. Come on guys: "Jokes? Funny? Ha-Ha?" I think the skipper almost gave up on them. Maybe it was waiting 30 minutes to be rushed around the lake at full throttle, maybe it was the mourning of their last ride, make it was some kind of silent protest, maybe it was just total exhaustion from the heat. Whatever the case, no more pier pressure.

From Paddlewheel, I pass Dragsters, and grab a Lemon Chill. If I would have known they would have given me the just the little wood ice cream tastig spoon, I may have reconsidered. Also, why do they price their products so after tax, it comes to $5.06. Couldn't we lower the actual price just a few pennies and have a net price of $5. I suck on the Lemon Chill as I make my way towards Oceana. Yes, I've pretty much taken care of the back half of the park, time to move up front. I finish the Lemon Chill just as I am passing Matterhorn. I grab a quick walk on ride on Matterhorn before continuing on.

I head to Windseeker, which has a slightly longer line than yesterday, but nothing too terrible, so I get rewarde with another fine view of Lake Erie, and a swing ride. From Windseeker, I hea to Wicked Twister. Now, I wasn't really seriously thinking I could ride it, but I needed that confirmation. I pole vaulted myself into the test seat, lowered the bar, and just as I thought, "Not a Chance". This one still isn't even close.

By this tie, something started coming over me, and I wasn't feeling that great. I sort of stumble over to MaxAir, and get there just in time to be rider #50. MaxAir should be just like Delirium at Kings Island, except its not. For one thing, they have improved traffic flow with two exit gates as well as the two entrance gates. They have a platform deck that doesn't look lke it would tear your feet up if you rode barefooted, and the cubby holes for lose items look better than the big metal toolboxes that look like they belong on the back of a pick up truck. The queue area looks smaller, but that may be just becuase they didn't try the experiment of mainstreaming wheelchairs through the main queue on this version. Also, the on deck 'bullpen' is the final twist of the queue, which keeps riders lined up in order, instead of the holding areas Kings Island uses. Kings Island has had to resort to painting numbers on the ground, not to keep order, but to get people to keep moving in and filling up all the available space in the holding areas. Note that both parks went to the Cedar Point style bullpen for Windseker. Now, that I have gone over all the off ride imrpovements, let's talk about on ride. In a nutshell, the ride expeiene on MaxAir is much better, its more like the ride program Delirium used when it was first installed. I don't know what happened to Delirium, but the program they run on it now is a shell of its former self. It also is a plus that MaxAir is in the middle of the midway, and not situated where one side of it swings out over a service area.

MaxAir was refreshing, and while in this corner of the park, I note Space Spiral is closed, not that I had any intention of getting in that sweat box, I instead got into a different Sweat Box. Disaster Transport. I should have known I was in trouble when I walked all the way through the queue and into a waiting sled. Last night the line was down the stairs and ust starting to back up into the queue maze. Last ngiht I wasn't riding in the middle of a 100 degree day, in a metal building, with no air conditioning. Trip to Alaska? (Who remembers that stroyline anymore), try Trip to Death Valley! Trip to Hell! That building was roasting inside, which is something I guess the Cedar Point regulars know. I make my way down the exit stairs and dash over to the water fountain. That fountain used to be very cold, not anymore. I duck into the restroom building near Space Sprial.

Wow this was actually a good move, as this restroom building has an air condiitoner! I admit I hung out in the restroom, until it got crowded with 10 other guys all hanging around trying to soak in the air conditioning. Cedar Point has been criticized in the past for nasty restrooms. I do think the park is trying to fix that situations, one tell is when you go into a restroom if it has the sea green/blue walls it's likely been renovated. This one, the one my the Funway train station, Mean Streak, and Mine Ride are all in great shape. The one by Mine Ride even has changing rooms, before you get into the restroom itself, trying to solve the wet floor problem that persists in restroom buildings near water rides. The one by Magnum is still pretty bad, and the one by Raptor is still at "Avoid at all costs".

But, I' still not feeling good, almost delerious. I make a trek through Kiddy Kingdom and into the Coliseum. If it's one place you can pactically guarantee air conditioning, its in arcades and gift shops. Stnding aound in a gift shop tends to bring unwanted attention to yourself, so I duck into the Coliseum. When I see the big fans, I know, no air conditioning here. I do find a table that looks like it came fro a 1970's fast food restaurant and sit down for ahwile. It may not be air conditioned, but its better than outside. I do watch some interesting 4 player air hockey matches going on, on a true 4 sided air hockey table. Yes I know all air hockey tables have four sides, but this one is more square, and has goals on all four sides. I also take a tour of the aracde. It is really neat, its like a time machine, the games nearest the midway are generally the newest games around, and as you go to the back the games get progressilvely older. The back wall is lined with pinball machines, many from the electromechanical era, and many still operate. (When you see cyclometer scoring, you now its an old game. They also have some old shooting games and the like back there. For some even older games, check out the Town Hall Museum back by mine ride. Though, last I checked, none of those games operate anymore, they are all show pieces.

So, its blazing hot outside. If this were during the middle of July or August, I could duck into a theatre and get 30 minutes of AC while watching a show, but I think both the ice show and the show in what was the Centennial Theatre have ended for the season. At least during the wee, anyway. Someobdy suggests the Red Garter to me, but that seems far away. I do decide to venture forth and check out Cedar Downs. Cedar Downs is the park's rare Racing Derby. It's similar to a carousel, except the horses are in full speed race poses instead of parade poses, and instead of focusing on going up and down, each row has 4 horses, and they move back and forwards within their row to crete the sensation of a race, and the ever changing order of the horses. It is also perceived to spin faster than a rgular carousel, but I think somebody has shown that the actual rotational speed of the turntable is actually the same as that of the main carousel up by the front gate. The difeence is the Racing Derby has a big infield in the center, so the turntable is much larger, and the horses are much further away from the center. Which means, that even through the machanism is moving at the same speed as the regular carousel, the horse has to travel a lot farther distance in the same arount of time, which yields to a much faster ride. The ride is sentimental for me, as it is one of the rides I remember enoying together with Mom and Dad, so I try to ride it every time I go to Cedar Point.

From Cedar Downs, I take a ride on Blue Streak, and decide I didn't really enjoy it all that much. On the way back to the main midway, I spot Gameday Cafe. More importantly, I note signs of air conditioning. I'm not sure what problem I was suffering but somewhere between the 45 minutes of air conditioning, the soft drinks with free refills ("Keep Em Coming!") and what was actually a very reasonably priced, generously sized and actually quite good Chicken Ceaser Salad, I was feeling much better. From my table at Gameday, I could watch Raptor run, and right after eating, I went to take a ride on Raptor. If I thought I had a walk on last night, I was mistaken, now this is a walk on.

After Raptor, I took a ride on the sky ride. I hit it at a time when not many people wanted to ride from the front gate to the center of the park, so I esentially walked up on a waiting car and got in. They loaded me in, locked the door, and as they were dispatching the car, the loader left me with a, "Don't forget to buckle up!" I, of course, looked for the non existant seat belt. It was a nice relaxing ride over the main midway, and I recalled a favorite scene from the movie Rollercoaster. In fact, I think I'll give the signal I switched suitcases as I near the north platform. The north platform was considerably busier, with a line of eager skyride riders almost all the way down the stairs. Beore moving on, I took a ride on Dodgems, I am somewhat of a bumper car fan, and Cedar Point actually has a nice set of cars. Of course, Cedar Point is also in Ohio, where most Dodgems operations are in a competition to see which one can be the worst.

From Dodgems, I take stock in what I have accomplished. I have been on all my Tier 1 rides that I am eligible to ride, except Mean Streak. I have een accomplished many of my favorite flat rides in the park, so not really a bad day for a Labor Day Weekend friday at the park. I decide to go pick up the Mean Streak ride for the day, and in doing so decide to ride back on the train ride. As the train is pasing by Milennium Force, I think I spot Eric coming in on a Milennium Force train. Now, even though I know by the time I get back there, he will be gone to some other attraction, I decide to skip out on Mean Streak, and just ride the train round trip. While the outbound leg of the train ride is the Intamin showcase on one side and Lake Erie on the other, the return leg cuts through the center of the park, and I suppose with Milennium Force and Shoot the Rapids is also an Intamin showcase ride, but it is also dotted with animated tableaux that make it much more interesting.

I get in line for Milennium Force, and much have gotten in line just in time, as the line was taking the shortest route possible, and was only halfway back to the entrance. By the time I was halfway up the big ramp, the last part of the queue maze was completely full. I suppose this is with people rushing to get their last ride of the night on the big rollercoaster. Did I mention how happy I am I can ride Milennium Force again? B this time it is almost time to catch back up to Eric. So I go up to the prearranged meet up spot by Raptor, and take a Raptor ride. The "One Last Time" crowd is here as well, as the line is all the way down the stairs and backing up into the maze.

I finish up my ride, and get a text that Eric is running a bit late. So I go over to Blue Streak to get another classic airtime filled wood coaster ride, then I walk next door to Calypso. I like the Calypso, and they have a good example here. For theme, they do play calypso style music on the ride, and they actually give you a decent length ride that spins pretty good. Maybe not Munich Oktoberfest fast, but a good ride none the less. Speaking of Oktoberfest, as I was waiting for my ride on Calypso, I note they have you wait up on the big ride deck just outside of the area with the turntable. Unlike Oktoberfest they have a fence between you and the turntable. It was actually running so nice, I rode it twice.

I finished up with a ride on Blue Streak. This is also being hit by the "One Last Time" crowd, as the line was halfway back to the tunnel under the track. When I got up to the station I realized they had taken the ride down to a single train. After that, I met up with Eric at Ocean Motion, which is now by the main gate, and we headed out. We exchanged notes, and I learned Eric focuses his day on Dragsters and Millennium Force. He noted the actual trains on Dragster are a harder fit than the test seat, that you can't ride the Giant Wheel alone, and more. We stopped by Danny Boy's for some Italian dining before heading to the hotel.

Stay tuned: this trip report continues in a future blogisode with the Van Wert County Fair.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Duet of Holiday World 2011 Trip Reports

Welcome back, it's time to continue posting my 2011 park trip reports.

Today, I give you a doubleheader of Holiday World trip reports. Holiday World, located in Santa Claus, IN is one of the parks I have visited most often in recent yeas outside of my home park. Part of the reason for this is the park has long offered a spring coaster enthusiast event, which I have attended every year it has been offered since 1999. More recently, they have also partnered with Coasterrbuzz to offer a fall event as well. I think I have been to almost every one of those. Then, there have been a couple times I have dropped by on regular park days.

With that out of the way, let's get this started with Holiwood Nights 2011. This event is the spring event, which the last couple years has take place in early June. This year it was June 3 and 4, also as usual, I would be traveling with my HoliWood Nights partner, Dave Althoff, JR, AKA Rideman. For reasons that I won;t go into here, both of us had doubts as to our ability to attend the event this year, at least the Friday portion of it. But, as the date grew closer, combined with the park staying open later, combined with the time zone change from Cincinnati to Santa Claus, it all worked out.

In year's past the Friday night events started at 6pm CST, but due to later park hours, this year it started at 7pm, which means that on my clock, it started at 8pm EST. It takes about three hours to get to the park, so that means we could theoretically leave as late as 5pm, and still make it to the park on time. So, bearing that in mind, Dave picked me up a little after 4pm. This did mean we had to deal with a little rush hour traffic, but it gets us to Louisville around 5:30. To ensure a smooth ride through Louisville, we stopped just outside of town for the refueling stop where we filled both the car and ourselves with a snack at McDonalds. This meant, a smooth ride through Louisville, and the construction delays that plagued I-64 a year ago are gone, so before you know it, we were driving the 7 mile road from I-64 to the park.

Over the years, Holiday World has experienced both a growth in the size of the park, but also in attendance. As we rode past the back of Thanksgiving and HoliDog's Fun Town, we noted the new entrance to the Legend lot has been completed and what was the overflow lot appears to now be the main lot as signage tells us that all Holiday Wold parking is straight ahead. We ignored that sign, and turned right anyway, driving past the back of 4th of July and Christmas. Again, another sign directed us that "Holiday World Parking - Next Left". We turned right. You see, we much prefer the old Raven lot to the new Legend lot. The Legend lot is nice, don't get me wrong, as part of the "Guest Comfort" package the park installed this year is a nice shelter for those waiting on tram service. It's just that at an after hours event, there is no tram service at the end of the event, and due to the fact the entire tram station and tram driveway in the Legend lot is lined with fencing, you can (and we have) gotten nice front row parking spots and you still have to walk all the way around the tram station, despite being parked directly in front of the tunnel under the main road. Then, and I presume this is for the safety of the younger guests the park attracts, you come out of the tunnel on the park side, almost directly across from the main gate, but further fencing insists you walk all the way around the perimeter of the parking lot.

So, we enter the Raven lot, and eventually find a parking space almost even with the picnic grove, and prepare to to the salmon run. No, not the ride in the park, but the fact it is about 6:30, the park has just, or is just about to close for the night, so we are heading for the ticket office just as hundreds if not thousands of people are trying to get from the front gate to their cars.

Owing to fact we wee unsure of our ability to attend, we would have to buy tickets on site, so we went up to the group sales office, handed over some money, and received the usual event packet: name tag, ticket sheet, event schedule, and a coupon sheet. We next did the run back to the car to return everything we did not need on night 1, and headed for the front gate.

One of the items mentioned as part of the "Comfort Package" was a new front gate. I saw the construction photos, so I know they actually did redo the front gate, but looking at it, I can't put a finger on just what they did. Wider lanes, perhaps, to accommodate strollers at any lane? I mentioned before that the park caters to younger guests, and I recall the last time they redid the front gate, one of the big changes was to rid the park of all turnstiles. The reasoning is simple, while the crossbar is even with the waist or belly of an adult, it was even with the neck or face of a child.

Friday night ERT ticket scanned and taken, we proceeded into the park. The base package does not include Friday admission, only the ERT session, which makes tonight more like a preview night. As the park continued to direct the day guests out of the park, we made our way through the closed park to the main picnic grove. We arrived just in time for the big announcement that the park is considering a steel coaster proect, not for 2012, but sometime in the near future. More to the point, just like Voyage, and to a lesser extent Legend, the park wants our input on the design of their steel coaster. The parks new president, Dan Koch was introduced, the usual ride safety lecture given, and it was time to head into the park. I think we have the timing for this down, we get to the grove just in time to hear the most pertinent parts of the opening ceremony then turn right back around and head into the park.

Into the park, there are essentially two options you can take: Thanksgiving or Halloween. We opted for Halloween and thus found ourselves started ERT on the Legend. The Legend really does suffer from middle-child syndrome. Owing to the small crowd, we headed for seat 2.1 and though the ride was just okay, nothing special but okay. The ride does seem to be running faster and smoother than it has in recent seasons. I like the description that the ride is everything the Beast (Kings Island) is not, which seems fitting as one of the early coaster shows on Discovery had Will Koch saying he was inspired (for Raven actually) by the Beast. Legend starts with an impressive twisting drop into a tunnel, then you go over a couple hills while getting a tour of Splashin' Safari, culminating in the spiral drop at the far end. This leads you into a series of airtime hills, and a tunnel, that cuts through the structure of the ride, and takes you to the backside of the ride whee the helix resides. This isn't your Beast Helix, it may by a double helix, partially tunneled and all that, but that's where it ends. Instead of the two layers of helix on Beast being neat and one on top of the other in the tunneled portion, on Legend the top tunnel going in is the bottom tunnel coming out, and vice versa. The ride concludes with a rapid fire series of curves, affectionately known as the Four Corners of Doom. We exit the ride and meet Dan Koch on the exit, we make our introductions, notice his birthday button, and proceed on.

Another part of the "Comfort Package" involves more restrooms, and in this case they have converted the Merlin's Castle arcade into additional restrooms. Noting that, we headed up the hill towards Raven.

Raven, the coaster that started it all for the park. We took a couple back seat or near back seat rides. Raven, while being the shortest wood coaster in the park, still packs a punch. The tunneled first drop, which leads to what would appear to be an out and back layout with its turnaround over Lake Rudolph being a low water hugger rather than the traditional high turnaround. The big surprise comes when you encounter the rides big drop about halfway down the return leg, and then, before you know what hit you, the ride goes into a ground-hugging series of curves, before rising to meet the brake run, still with much fury as you head the wheels spinning madly on the brake run.

After our second Raven ride, it was time for the pizza party in Kringles. It's clever, putting the meal and ERT at the same time. Okay, you figure out how you want to spend your time. We head into Kringles and prepare for to feast on pizza, potato chips, veggie trays and Pepsi. This is also where you start running into all the people yoou haven't seen all winter, which means you spend more time at the meal than you probably should. Remember, Friday is the preview, its just to get you ready for the big event tomorrow. Before leaving Kringles, you would be remiss if you didn't stop by the fudge counter to pick up your free block of fudge. It's great fudge, and it gives you the sugar high you need to make it through the event.

After dinner, we headed towards Thanksgiving. On our way down there, we noted Hallowswings was open, and the operator was so enthusiastic at recruiting riders, how could we refuse. It's your typical park circle swing ride, with a custom Halloween theme package, where as the park blog once noted "Even the skulls are smiling" Spin rides, right after gorging on pizza and fudge, the true mark of a ride enthusiast.

We then took the long walk down to Thanksgiving, and enough with the appetizers, now it's time for the Voyage. We headed to Voyage, and upon noting the line for the back seat to be no worse than any other seat, headed there. By now, you know the Timberliners did not make it for the 2010 season, which cause the park to re-engineer one of the Raven trains into the high-performance model required for Voyage so that Voyage at least had two trains. (The park had sold two of the Voyages three trains to Darien Lake prior to the start of the 2010 season, which may have put the very last trailer model PTC's out of our misery) Sure, that left Raven with only one train, which isn't ideal, but I did mention the ride was short right? It also gave enthusiasts something to debate all summer, was the red or blue train better on Voyage, and as you might expect, answers differed. This season, the park took no chances, and ordered a replacement PTC train to give the Raven its second train back, and to give Voyage a second train. Even better, last year the Voyage ran with shortened 6 car trains, since a Raven train is only 6 cars, and you apparently can't run trains with differing amounts of cars, so now car 7 is back.

And with that, we are into car 7. Voyage was everything its supposed to be, sure there is still some potholes on the outbound leg, but overall the ride is running fast and furious. Voyage is essentially an out and back coaster with unconventional turnarounds at either end. Myself, I love the outbound leg and the return leg, but more and more, I am hating the infamous spaghetti bowl turnaround on the far end. It's just unnecessarily violent, and I find myself merely enduring that part of the ride and hoping to get it over with so we can get to the awesome return leg. You get a quick moment to catch your breath on the mid course brake, not that it is on, but it is the only slow, flat part of the entire ride. Then, prepare for triple down heaven, and a return leg that slices and dices through the structure of the outbound leg while generating generous airtime. It's all good until after the drop under the station, where the second turnaround, while nowhere near as bad as the first, is the "Kick you while you are down" turnaround. You have just gone through an exhausting ride, the station is in sight. The ride says "Think you've had enough? WHAM Now you've had enough!" Luckily the two long airtime filled straight sections more than make up for the two brutal turns. The rides other claim to fame, the terrain. As you go out, you go uphill, a very steep uphill. To the point where the mid course safety brake is almost at ground level, which means the return run is all downhill literally, which means each successive drop can be even deeper than the one before.

That was so fun, let's do it again. Voyage Plaza has also been the location of special events during the ERT. Last year, the area sported a prototype Timberliner car for our inspection and photo opportunities. This year, there was a table setup in the middle of the area with laptops. This was so you could participate in the Steel Coaster Survey. Next to the table was a poster about the survey with a QR code so you could take the survey on your mobile device. The poster also advertised the survey would be available at a secret link, so you could take it after you got home (or in your hotel, like I did). On the other side of Voyage plaza, next to the Pepsi Oasis, were more tables where Dan Koch's birthday cake was being distributed.

After enjoying some cake, we finished the night with several more Voyage rides. On one ride, we decided to just grab an empty seat (5.2) instead of waiting for the back seat. Big mistake, as the ride was being particularly brutal in the middle cars, all through the ride. What gives? No more rides in 5.2 for us, from then on it was back seat or nothing for us.

By continued Voyage rides, we soon found ourselves on the last Voyage ride of the night, which also meant we missed our usual tactic of riding Raven last. So, as usual, we engaged in strange coasternut behavior, and stood around and talked on Voyage Plaza until the area was almost empty, then talked our way through the park up to the main gate. I do believe the park has "When Rideman gets to the front gate, the park is clear" as part of their ERT procedures. We then proceese to talk some more at the front gate, then some more out in the parking lot.

Then it was time to find our hotel. We decided to take advantage of the new 231 to Owensboro, KY, and stayed in Owensboro, but not before first making a couple wrong turns before getting out of Santa Claus. The on ramp to 231 from Santa Claus is badly in need of lighting. I don't mean traffic lights, I mean street lights. Right now there is nothing, you practically have to use feel, intuition and luck to make the turn onto the highway after dark. Sure you have headlights, but they aren't shining off to the left to show you where the ramp is. We also make the bad decision that since our hotel was right on the Owensboro bypass, we would be wise to take the bypass around town to our hotel instead of going right through town. Bad call. So we made it to the hotel a bit later than we planned, but hey it is a Holiday Inn Express, so maybe we will become smarter overnight, like their advertisements claim. You know you were very tired when you wake up in the middle of the night, still in your clothes, on the bed clutching your mobile device.

As has also become standard for us, we missed the included morning "Pool Party" at the water park. It's part of the event where they give us access to Bahari wavepool, Wildebeast and maybe Bahari River starting at 8:30 in the morning. Oh, and there is also a free continental breakfast. One of the stipulations, however, is that you have to be at the park by 8:15 to attend the pool party, as they walk the group back to Bahari as a group, and there is no late entry. For a long time, you could not exit the waterpark early either, not until the regular waterpark opening time, but I hear you can now exit via Pilgrims Plunge stating at park opening time. So, with the early arrival time, and all that, while we have made it to the water park pool party a time or two, we generally do not. Instead, while the pool party was going on I was introducing myself to the Holiday Inn Express Award Winning Showerhead, quickly followed by the Holiday Inn Express Award Winning Cinamon rolls at the hotels free breakfast. (Yes with eggs, meat and all).

After getting some driving advice from the front desk, we headed to the park, arriving almost just before the water park opened. We park in Raven lot once again, somewhere in between tram stops 2 and 3. Poor Dave, we get to the front gate plaza just in time for him to realize he has to go back to his car. Once all of that is settled, we head into the park and directly for Splashin Safari. One of the big parts of the "Comfort Package" is the addition of lots of new deck chairs, and lockers to the water park. Yes, this so called "Comfort Package" is really general improvements made to help keep pace with the parks growing attendance.

For whatever reason, I still had my iPhone with me, and not wanting to do the usual "hiding place" method, bought some peace of mind for $5 in the form of a locker. I headed to what appeared to be a bigger bathhouse, and noted the area that had the locker rental counter is just lockers now. Following some signs, I head to the all new locker rental building, which replaced Water Wars (sanctioned water balloon fights). Locker obtained, stuff stowed, free suntan lotion liberally applie, we headed to Wildebeast. This, of course, means a full tour of a rather large water park. I can remember when the whole waterpark was the two slide tower at the very front, a lazy river, wave pool, and a small kiddie area. Now, it is a very large waterpark, and we passed by what I think is the third children's water activity area that was added for this season. Eventually, we get back to Wilebeast. I noted some shade covering has been added to the rest of the slide's queue area, and that the single rider line provides an almost walk on wait.

We head for the single rider line. Wildebeast is the parks first water coaster, and was so successful, they are adding a second only two years later. In this one, you ride in 4 person toboggan rafts, and with a loading area that Henry Ford would be proud of, they handle both the regular and single rider lines with ease, and with their three stage red/yellow/green loading system, they ensure almost every boat goes out full, and on time. First riders from the main queue step out onto the red dots, when the next raft loads, they step up to the yellow dots, and empty spots are filled in from single rider, then another raft loads, they move up to green, and as such are ready to go as soon as the next raft is available. From green, you step onto the moving belt, which provides the illusion the raft is perfectly still as your load into it. From there you move out to the conveyor belt lift, to the top of the ride. There an operator ensures proper spacing between rafts before they enter the slide. Like most of their newer slides you first pass under a water curtain. It robs you of the whole "Maybe I can get through this dry" notion right away. A curvy downward section helps you built up speed before heading into the Dips. The rides feature is a series of steep dips, which produce an amazingly strong dose of airtime for a water slide. Airtime, with nothing but physics and the promise to hold on to the handles keeping you in the raft. It's no wonder the coaster enthusiasts love these.

The other amazing thing are the uphill segments where thanks to some complicated hydromagnetic forces (or magic, your choice) your raft seems to fly up the uphill segments, sometimes even faster than when you were going downhill For this it pays to ride with as light a raft as possible, as the mechanism seems to pull each raft with the same amount of force, the lighter the raft the more it catapults you over the top, which translates into airtime. Another curving helix and water curtain mrk the end of the ride, where your raft is brought to a stop by use of a variable speed moving belt. We manage 3 or 4 rides before the crowd catches up to us.

We then stop by the Pepsi Oasis, I get some fruit punch to go with the whole tropical safari theme, and we head to Pilgrims Plunge. Pilgrims Plunge is an Intamin shoot the chutes type ride, billed as the tallest water ride in the world. I'm sure the concept showed the ride would be a lot wetter, and would drench the riders more than it actually does. For the world's tallest water ride, the splashdown is rather lackluster. But, due to what was promised to be a big splash, the park positioned the ride so while it was in the Thanksgiving section, it was also adjacent to the water park. This would allow them to also offer the ride as a water park ride, and yes you are allowed to ride it barefooted in nothing more than a bathing suit. The ride even has a dual measuring device so that those who ride barefooted are given a one inch allowance on the height requirement to account for the fact they aren't wearing shoes and socks.

We enter the queue and its about a third full or less, and we quickly make our way through the queue and onto the ride. The ride retains the faster speed it gained last season, and runs about the same. Checking that off the list, and since we both have footwear, bathing suits and shirts on, we are able to continue walking into Thanksgiving.

We head to Gobbler Getaway, but the yellow sign and the attendant out front let us know the ride isn't quite ready for us. So, we continue to Turkey Whirl (for some reason I want to call it the Turkey Twirler, for no reason, I guess it may come back to that line from Lion King where the hyenas are marching Zazoo "Hippity Hoppity all the way to the Birdie Boiler" ) We manage to get an above average ride on Turkey Whirl, and head for Voyage, yes in the back seat. Going up the lift for Voyage I note Gobbler Getaway opening, so after a Saturday morning dose of "The Greatest Wood Coaster Ever Built" we head for Gobbler.

The ride had just opened, so there really wasn't a line to speak of. We take our places, grab our turkey callers and head out into the field. The ride goes find through the long stretch to the first set of targets. Soon after the ride stops, for a while. The ride would continue in this start, move a few feet, stop pattern. It was the longest Gobbler Getaway ride we have ever had, as evidenced by our scores. We realized that is an unspoken feature of the Sally system. Think about it, when does most park vandalism occur, when park guests are bored. Look in the queue area of a parks popular low capacity ride for evidence of this) On most dark rides the cars and action stop, leaving people bored, and that's when people climb out of the cars, putting themselves at risk, and possibly damaging the ride, either accidenttaly or on purpose. The Sally system allows you to keep shooting the targets, even when the ride vehicles are stopped, which may keep riders minds and hands occupied while you get the ride running again.

At one point when ride technicians were walking through the ride, we commented that the animatronics are getting to look incredibly life like. At any rate, we eventually made it through the ride, with insanely high scores, and noted that the ride was again closed. Another Voyage ride took place before leaving Thanksgiving.

While still in bathing suits, we next headed for the rapids ride. The line wasn't quite as long as we had feared, and it seems that on this ride you either get really drenched or you come off fairly dry. Last year was our total drench ride, this year was the barely anything ride. I do think one of the side effects of Thanksgiving is the rapids ride was shortened. Now you leave the station, go through the tunnel, come back outside, hit the first rapid, go through a turnaround, pass by the shooting gallery, another turnaround, some more rapids, then the third turnaround to take you through the flooded out western town. You may or may not get nailed by a water curtain, then you return to the station. At this point, Dave wanted to eturn his swim bag to the car and get his camera for the walk back, so we parted ways while he did that, and I went back to my locker. I grabbed my bad and headed into the bath house. I was very happy to notice the men's bath house has been renovated since last season, even more happy to see the communal changing room is now smaller, as it has been mostly replaced by several private changing rooms. Many thanks to the park for this.

I returned the locker key, got my $5 refund, and promptly spent it at the Dippin Dots booth where I got some kind of Dippin Dots that had honest to goodness brownie chunks in them. I ate those as I headed to Legend to meet Dave.

Having met up, we started the "Flat Ride Tour" of the park. First some love to Legend, this time in the back seat. Yes, they is a big difference in the back, and Legend is again performing very nicely. From there I noted the games drop boxes no longer accept paper money, you instead have to buy dollar coins from the attendants. I recall Busch Gardens tried this tactic several years ago.

From there we took the obligatory ride on Frightful Falls, skipped the Scarecrow Scrambler, and of course rode Raven instead of walking up the hill. We then headed for Fourth of July. We skipped Midnight Ride for the long line (and had I known then what I know now, we would have ridden it, as it was best of breed for a Spider ride) , but instead went on the Louis and Clark Trail, where we explored the American west in Model T Fords, just like Louis and Clark did many years ago. It's one of those rides I have been on maybe three times in all my visits to the park. I noted they no longer allow single riders (that whole park attendance thing again), and as we headed out, Dave advised me to drive very carefully. It wasn't a trite warning, as he advised me the hard roof of the car was about an eighth of an inch from my head. I was more impressed with the sheer amount of force you need to apply to the gas pedal.

After driving the antique car, we headed to Rough Riders for a good bumper car ride, then followed that up with a ride on Liberty Launch. This time looking at the lines, we decided it would be quicker to use the regular line than single rider. It's not the best double shot ride out there, but its a fun diversion. We skipped the Star Spangled Carousel that we are too heavy for, and rode the train ride. We were some of the last people onto the train, which meant I got the front seat of the back (open air) car. I may have noted the front and back seats are much smaller than the other seats of car. Some interesting contortions needed to take place, and it wasn't exactly comfortable, but we took our ride through Mother Goose Land. After that we went back and grabbed a ride on Howler.

After that, Dave needed to get to the Voyage photo walkback, something I don't have that much interest in anymore. While Dave headed there, I headed to the glass blower shop and bought Mom a nice (but not that expensive) blown glass Christmas tree to add to her collection. After checking out the other gift shops, I ade my way out the car, following Dave's directions as he had moved it much closer to the front of the lot on his trip out to the car. Upon reentering the park, I headed to Voyage, and while they were taking photos of Voyage, I was riding Voyage.

When I noted the group heading back in, I proceeded to Gobbler Getaway to intercept Dave on the way out of the photo walk back. We ducked into Gobbler to enjoy the air conditioning, if not the longer line. This time we did get the normal Gobbler Getaway experience. After that, as I have note the last couple years, the day is just a bit too long gto go without a meal, so we stopped into the newly enlarged Plymouth Rock Cafe. Yes, booths, a nice indoor air conditioned dining room, restrooms and more have been added. They even had the prime rib that others wee complaining about them not having. It's a great food value in a theme park, where about $10 gets you meat and three sides, bread and of course a drink. Not only that, it's good food. We decided to make this our main dinner, and just snack (yeah, right) at the picnic.

After eating, it was another trip on Voyage, then back into Fourth of July to finish up the flat ride tour with Eagle's Flight and Revolution. We then sort of wandered around the park, went to Rudolph's Reindeer Ranch to look a the new cute kiddie ride. It's one of those rides where you can raise or lower your car, but in this case the cars are Santa's Sleigh. This ride, Turkey Whirl, Hallowswings, Rough Riders, Howler, Reindeer Games - you can see the park has reached the point where just buying a ride off the shelf and installing it is not an option. Custom theming, when possible, is expected. Which makes the park look that much more big time.

We made our way to the picnic grove, looked at what was available in the auction,"snacked" on pull pork BBQ with all the trimmings at their traditional backyard BBQ picnic buffet, saw the introduction of the first ever Pat Koch Bobble head, which sold at auction for $250. Then it was back for more riding.

This time we started with Voyage, and after hearing some advice, tried it up front in row 2.1. I think we manged a triple ride in that seat. You know something is off, when at the start of ERT, you need to wait for the front or back seat, but everything else is a walk on. Voyage wasn't running in top form, and juding rom the crowd you could tell they knew it. Which really opened up a big mystery. Where is everybody? Yes, I know there are far fewer people jut judging by how much less space we take up in the picnic grove. But tonight, its like people left the park right after dinner. Prime ERT conditions for those of us that stayed, however. We rode Voyage some more, we got another birthday cupcake as the cupcake and survey tables were setup again tonight. We rode Voyage until we left Thanksgiving just in time to get the final ride of Scarecrow Scrambler ERT. We then finished the night by marathon riding Raven for the rest of the evening. Careful seat selection proved once again we got to ride for at least a half an hour or more without even getting out of the seat.

From thee we made our way to the front gate, and upon leaving the park, noted the parks attention to detail. They have been using movie themes the last couple years for their Holiwood Nights event, or at least parodies of movies. Children of the Corn became "Coasters of the Corn", "Jaws" became "Claws" and this year "ET" became "ERT". Upon leaving the park, each guest was given a free bag of Recee's Pieces. At first, I thought, thanks for the free candy, I was about halfway to the car when it struck me, the whole ET connection. We then headed back to the hotel.

You may think this is the end of the trip report, but remember this is a doubleheader so stay tune for the second event. I the meantime, we took the much shorter route to the hotel, stayed the night, and while we pushed check out time to the limit, we did roust ourselves out of our room in time to snag the free breakfast. While loading up the car the sky sure was turning ugly, by the time we got to the front desk to settle up the bill, it almost looked like night outside. The desk clerk strongly urged us not to leave the hotel. We watched television in the lobby. Potential tornadoes and strong rain coming our way. Great. We watched white caps appear on the hotel swimming pool. Hey they didn't advertise having a wave pool.

An hour or so later, after things had cleared up, we headed out. Unfortunately due to downed power lines, and flooded out roads, we had to get out of town by trial and error. We more or less took the scenic route back to Cincinnati as we didn't have anywhere to be. We did stop by a Texas Roadhouse for a steak dinner, and then called it a night. We didn't even stop by Kings Island for a couple Diamondback rides to cap off the night.

Part 2: Fall Affair - September 17, 2011

And this is the fall event. The weekend started with good intentions. The night before, Rideman and I exchanged a series of texts that read like a Star Wars script, and he noted he was going to TRY to get to my place by 10, which would get us to the park by noon. Well, that didn't happen. In fact, I had time to grab a Chipotle lunch, and then Rideman picked me up around noon. Things got worse when I-75 through the cut of the hill was a parking lot for no apparent reason, then we hit Louisville. The I-64 bridge is closed for repairs. Adding to this I-71 through th city was down to one lane for road construction. Toss in a fuel, and restroom stop, and we were considering ourselves lucky to be entering the park at around 3:30. Did I note the park closed at 5:30?

We managed to get our usual spot in Raven lot by the picnic shelter, got to the front gate, checked in, got our packets, and headed into the park.

We knew we had the coasters during ERT, and being so late, wrote off Wildebest already. We headed to Fourth of July, the line for Midnight Ride was almost a full queue, so we skipped that and instead rode Rough Riders, followed by a ride on Liberty Launch. From there we skipped the carousel, train, Howler, Revolution, and instead took a ride on Eagles Flight. We decided to skip Thanksgiving for now, and headed right to Halloween where we took a ride on Legend (a bit sluggish today), and Raven (top form as always). From there we headed up to the main gift shop to buy our Pat Koch bobble heads ($10), which, of course, needed to be taken out to the car. On the way back into the park, I picked up name tag #2 from Guest Relations, as Legend ate my first one. The second one was actually stapled shut, unlike the first one. From there we headed to Thanksgiving to grab our ride on Gobbler Getaway. Did Grandma really say it was either the 1700or1800's and we were going to ride through the farm in a car. Anachronism, much? We then went to Voyage, where something happened, that I don't think has happened since the year the ride opened. We were directed to basement level queues for the ride. None of the giant queue maze was open, we just had to go down the stairs, straight through, then back up the stairs. When we got to the Voyage platform, the back car was closed off, oh no, it wasn't but the temporary back seat fence was back. Insection of the train revealed the 7th car was again missing. Out on the ride, that does seem to have helped as the ride isn't quite as violent, that and I think they had the mid course brake functioning as a trim. The brutal turnaround didn't even seem as bad. By the tie we exited, the lower level of the queue was closed and we took another ride. I figure we caught the ride at the worst time, as the water park had just closed. After some Voyage rides it was time to hike back up to the Kringles, no wait, check your ticket - the pizza party is in the picnic grove.

We headed to the picnic grove, and had the usual pizza, chips, veggies, and fudge. The pizza didn't really survive its cross park trip from Kringles to the grove very well, but at least it is food, and it will get us through until we can get better food. The park was also hosting the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Awards today (think Oscars, Emmy's and the like for amusement parks), so that group had a big ceremony in the Holiday Theatre all day, follwed by dinner at Kringles.

Anyway during the announcements before ERT, it was announced that the Amusement Today group would be joining in on our ERT, and although I don't think it was every announced I think the ERT was extended. So yes, you now have coaster ebthusiasts riding rides alongside park presidents, PR reps, ride salesman, and other high ranking industry figures.

ERT started out with Raven and Legend ERT. We joined the group heading to Raven and started ERT with several Raven rides. We left Raven just in time to get two Legend rides before that part of ERT closed. We were advised to enjoy some free soft drinks while the park moved ride crews from the other coasters down to Voyage

We headed down to Voyage, and capped off the night and event with a Voyage ERT. I don't have a count, but we pretty much rode continuously until the end of ERT, owing to very short lines. After that, it was time to make the long hike back to the main gate, and then the parking lot. We next headed to Denny's Diner for dinner. After dinner and all that, we still had to deal with getting through the mess that is Louisville, and home. So all said, I didn't get home till almost 2am. We put in the back of our minds maybe next year driving down to Santa Claus the night before and getting a room.

And so ends Holiday World 2011 Trip reports. By now, you may be wondering what else I have up my trip report sleeve.

Coming up (real soon now) are:
1. Cedar Point (2 Days!)
2. Van Wert, OH County Fair
3. Universal Studios Florida
4. Islands of Adventure
5. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
and maybe, just maybe, details of my non coaster trip to Washington DC, New York City and much more.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

TR: Strickers Grove - Father's Day, 2012

One of our parish's annual traditions is the Parish Picnic each Father's Day. For the last several years, this event has been held at Stricker's Grove. Stricker's Grove being mainly a small private amusement park in Ross, Ohio that specializes in group outings. Also, since the park has been discovered, the few times a year it is open to public have been steadily getting more crowded.

I typically invite Rideman down to share the picnic and rides with me. It's usually a family outing, but with Mom not feeling well, Rideman and I headed out the park alone. True to form, Stricker's runs two ride sessions with a meal break in the middle. Rideman indicated he would be down for the later session. So around 3:30 he collects me, and we head to the park. It was actually a wise move that we avoided the early ride session, as that also meant we avoided the storm that went through the area.

Oh wait, I spoke too soon, just as we turned onto I-74, the rains started picking up again. Is this really a wise move? We continued to the park. The first thing we noticed before we even got to the park is a swinging pirate ship sitting next to the Tornado that neither of us remembered being there. This will need some investigation. The rain stopped just long enough for us to park, get through the front gate, use restrooms, and get some free beverages. I took the time to sign up to deal blackjack at the Parish Festival in July, and then we realized we got there just as the rides were closing for the break.

We positioned ourselves in the line to enter the big reception hall building for dinner, and at that point the line extended back to the picnic grove. Not long after the doors opened, the rains came back, which greatly shrank the line as some people ducked into the picnic shelter to wait for a break in the action to dash into the building, and also as the crew inside the building rerouted the queue so people could wait inside.

The meal was the usual, burgers, bratts, hot dogs and roast corn provided by the park, served with a pot luck buffet of side dishes and desserts provided by parishioners. We enjoyed dinner, and lo and behold when the rides reopened, the rain was gone for the day!

As I alluded to earlier, first a walk of the midway was in order. It looks like the arcade building replaced the garage doors with real glass doors, and at first things looked normal. On the left hand side of the midway, it started off with the carousel, jumping jumbos, train, Big Eli Ferris Wheel, Tip Top, and Scrambler. On the ride were some midway games, then a big shelterhouse filled with little kids rides (boats, cars, and rockets), the Kiddie Turtle, Kiddie Whip and Teddy Bear coaster.

It was the back half of the midway where some serious rearranging took place. The helicopter ride is gone, and in its place the Tilt A Whirl has been moved fro its spot on the right next to the Tornado, to a spot on the left between the Scrambler and the former spot of the Flying Skooters. The Tilt has a slightly larger footprint than the helicopter ride it replaced, but that is okay, because the new Pirate ride fills in the spot the Flying Skooters vacated, and runs in back of the Tilt.

The new pirate ride is clearly not ready, as it is missing a loading platform amongst other things. Turning my attention to the right hand side, the Electric Rainbow (Super Round Up) has moved to the spot the Tilt vacated, and that leaves one more spot, which is where the Flying Skooters took up the place the Electric Rainbow was, which means the Skooters kind of went back to their original location.

We headed right for the Tornado, and with they very small crowd it would be a walk on all day if you were not picky about seat selection, Most of the day was spent riding the Tornado, and the good news is the ride no longer squeals like crazy going around the curves, so it looks as if the ride has received some off season care, the not as good news is whatever care they gave it has seemed to correct the "mistake". The double down on the third pass through the structure still provides some airtime, but it much gentler than it was in the past. In short the brief bursts of violent airtime seem to be gone.

I was glad to see the ride had gotten some care, as I had some concern about the park the last year or so. Our other favorite ride is the Flying Skooters, which is a consistent performer. It's a ride where you feel like you are doing everything right, and should get that snap and violent tub action, but you don't.

When we weren't riding those two rides, we took a tour of the midway. Electric Raibow got a nice new pad next to Tornado, and they even restored the back gate, so it flush loads. This at a time when most parks are blocking off the back gate. I do wonder if it will ever get its scenery panels back. The ride got some new scenery panels the year Pugh operate LeSourdsville Lake. Stricker's bought the ride soon after but never put the scenery panels in that fit between the spokes of the wheel. Now they have moved the ride, but the panels are still not installed. They even moved the scenery panels and put them underneath the ride in the place they were in the former location.

Teddy Bear gave its consistent ride, and Tilt gave a slightly above average ride. We didn't bother with Tip Top or Scrambler. Their Scrambler never gets up to anything even approaching proper running speed, and Tip Top is not that interesting. It is a classic case of an old ride that people raved about on RRC about 15 years ago, until operators started running them again, then you figured out why they faded away in the first place.

Our Ferris Wheel ride exhibited the usual interesting balancing the park has used, as in they never seem to get it. The train ride is sometimes interesting to take, and this year was no exception. There is a schism afoot with the Hamilton County Fair. It hit all new levels this year when the 4H decide to pull out of the fair, and run its own fair out at Stricker's Grove. While we rode the train ride, we could see work going on for the construction going on to convert the big athletic field in back of the reception hall into a fairgrounds.

Rideman was also interested in the Jumping Jumbos ride, beause it was opeerating only 4 of its 6 sweeps, not only that the other 2 sweeps were completely removed from the ride. And they were right next to each other. He verified the ride did have a State operating permit displayed.

We also learned that the pirate ride was purchased as a fixer upper, and they hope to have it ready by 2012, and that by now LeSourdsville Lake has pretty much sold off or demolished every ride.

With that, we left the park to go get some Diamonback rides to close out the night.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A 2011 Kings Island Trip Retrospective

How is that fancy title for this Trip Report?

Well, lately, I have been debating if I want to continue trip report writing. I mean, they seem to be out of fad, and when they get to the point I dread writing them, something is wrong. Yet, I love to look back and relive memories.

Also, the problem with Kings Island trip reports, is they fall squarely under the Home Park Syndrome. This means when I go I either do my usual pattern, and ride the same rides, in the same order, and have about the same experience as the last 20 visits. What is interesting about writing or reading that? The other option is I go to the park for about an hour, ride Diamondback for an hour and leave. Again not too much of note there.

But here goes.

You can read the opening day epic here:

Other visits include:

Father's Day 2011 - 6/12/11

On this day, Rideman and I had spent the day at Stricker's Grove, which closed at 8p. Being with Rideman, you know we weren't exactly out of the park right on time, and what with the travel time to Kings Island got there around 8:30-8:45, on a 10 pm close. I'm sure you see where this is going. So we entered the park, high tailed it to Diamondback, rode a few times, walked over to Windseeker to check out the construction, and the light show testing, then went back to Diamondback for another ride or two. You can see why I didn't go out of my way to write that TR.

Next visit: 6/26/11

The scene: Windseeker had just opened Friday for media day, and initial reviews were good.

After church, I headed up on a Metro bus to visit the park. It would be a solo expedition, which can be nice in its own way. The bus dropped me off at the drop off area, and I did the National Lampoon's Vacation "Chariots of Fire" dash to the main gate, and then back to Windseeker. Only to be confronted with a "Sorry, this ride will not operate today" sign. After sulking for a bit, I decided to make the most of my visit, and set off do to a lap around the park. I got to the park around 2:30, and had to leave by 8 to get home at a decent hour by bus.

Since I was already in deep Coney, I started the lap with a quick ride on Vortex. Minimal wait as usual, for the usual dependable ride. As you can see this report is going to also be a run of the mill TR, but keep reading, I'll find some noteworthy tidbits. I headed down Coney Mall and looked in X Base, but the usual long lines resulted in the usual skipping of the X-Base rides.

I next headed for Racer and took rides on each side, and while there were minor hints of air, there was nothing to write home about, the usual Racer Experience. I followed the usual Racer experience with the usual Adventure Express experience, and then headed in Action Zone. In Action Zone i snagged rides on Delirium, Drop Tower, and Flight Deck before heading back to International Street.

There I headed towards Planet Snoopy to score a ride on Boo Blasters, Woodstock Express and Flying Ace. Having gotten the Planet Snoopy stuff out of the way I went to Diamondback for a few rides.

Followed up Diamondback with a ride on Beast. It seems to me the track work on Beast does mean its running smoother than it has in a while. I needed to fetch dinner, so I stopped at Rivertown Pizza for beer and pizza.

I then decided to see what Dinosaur's Alive is all about. The park has really been agressively marketing the dinosaur exhibit, both outside the park in print and electronic media, as well as having a giant dino by the toll plaza, as well as in park signs and announcements. They have put Dinosaur's Alive in the woods behind Racer, I'm guessing close to where Trail of Terror was, except now you enter where Cinema 180 stood for several years.

The spot that held the Euro Bungy and then Euro Bobbles is now a dinosaur themed birthday pavilion, but its ticket booth is now the dinosaur exhibit ticket booth, along with some self serve kiosks placed nearby. Another dinosaur marks the start of the path. Ticket in hand ($5), I headed back the path, through a new cut through under Racer to the ticket taker. After the ticket taker, a crossing guard assists you over the parks service road into the exhibit.

The exhibit at its roots is a collection of robotic dinosaur models, if this sounds a bit familiar, its because these same types of shows have played science museums, natural history museums, and zoos for some time now. The park has laid a nice wide accessible concrete walkway through the woods, and even took the time to imprint a fossil pattern into the pavers. I noted they have gone all out but stopped just short of using the term Jurassic Park. I think the park guide dubs it a "Jurassic Adventure"

You are handed a special park guide for this park-within-a-park,and park rangers dressed in kahkis are present to answer any questions you may have, and even give tours. I entered the area around 6:30 so was one of the last admitted before the dusk curfew (no lights), as such, I had an enthusiastic 'ranger' also named David who was all too eager to give me the full tour experience.

The exhibit is much the same as I have seen at the Cincinnati Zoo, Indianapolis Childrens' Museum, Cincinnati Museum Center and the like, maybe just on a larger scale. The larger plot of land does add to the experience, and having the dinosaurs spread out instead of just a row of them one after the other does help with the immersion, and also artificially makes the exhibit seem longer than it is.

Just like in the past incarnations, thee are a couple interactive dinosaurs you can control, and I see they went with the vandal proof heat sensitive buttons instead of the joysticks and mechanical buttons that really take a beating in this kind of an environment. While I think they may have played fast and lose on the science, I bet children will probably love it. I do think its a one time gig, I mean who is going to pay $5 each visit to see it. Well that is unless the park stoops to putting its trick or treat trail back there during Halloween, prompting a second visit for a lot of families.

The trail is dotted with snack carts, and signs advertising an upsell of a 3D companion movie. I think they recycled the Laura Croft jeep from Tomb Raider as a 'not so subtle' Jurassic Park jeep knock off, and they have the kids sandbox fossil dig, just like any good dino exhibit. At the end of the trail, you can either go around again. (It's a one way trail), or cross the service road again, where you reenter the main park by way of a large tent that is the exhibits gift shop.

One really neat thing I noticed, is they have really managed to isolate Dinosaurs Alive. While you are out on the trail, there are only a couple spots you might catch a glimpse of one of the rides, likewise while in the main park, you can't see into the dinosaur exhibit, and that includes from the top of Tower. That really helps with the whole feel of the experience. I may even say the new Dino exhibit may be one of those places you can go to just have a relaxing half hour or so, just like you used to be able to do on the Wild Animal Habitat monorail.

I then headed for the companion 3D movie. It's $4 if purchased separately or $2 as an add on to the walk through. The movie is back in the Action FX Theatre. Due to Windseeker blocking the old Action FX Theatre entrance, you now enter via what was the exit. At one of the tunnels under Racer the ticket taker takes your ticket. When you are almost down to the building a new entrance can be found that connects via a path that runs alongside the Racer to the back of the old queue, so in a sense they have actually extended the queue. They wasted no time breaking up the old queue path, instead of leaving the remains.

The movie is in the left theatre, and up until you enter the theatre, it seems the same as Action FX Theatre: you get your glasses, you are assigned a row, you wait for the automatic doors to open. You go inside, and you first notice the motion bases have been removed, and replaces with what can loosely be called bench seating. There is no motion or 4D effects in this show. The show is a bit longer than a theme park movie, and is more documentary in tone, at least the 3D effects are good enough to keep you from nodding off. Upon exiting the theatre, they collect the glasses, and you can see the walls from Urgent Scare, which means the arcade is gone and the exit path a lot narrower than it used to be, at least until you get outside.

At that point I knew I needed to head home, but that's a long ride. I wisely decide to stop by the restroom building next to Vortex to learn it is closed due to no water. A park rep suggests I go to the restrooms near Rivertown Pizza, but at just about that time, a family comes up and I gather that the person blocking that restroom had sent them up here. Walking down Coney they had hastily put up some yellow caution tape near the Skeeball building, so I'm guessing the broken water main resides around that part of the park. Luckily for all, the restrooms near Racer were open, even if they were sporting a larger than normal line, Having that taken care of, I headed home.

Next Visit: July 3, 2011

Kings Island has long been known for doing something extra special for their Fourth of July fireworks show. It's a night where the crowd gets larger as the night progresses, and people have been known to come and park their car only to watch the fireworks from the parking lot. This perhaps got to its zenith during the Paramount years with their "Nights of Fire" which involved at least 2 fireworks shows going off simultaneously to ensure total park coverage and then packing the Eiffel Tower with fireworks to create a spectacular centerpiece. Sure, it was also a logistical nightmare with them having to shut down parts of the park, but it was worth it.

So, I arrived at the park around 2pm, knowing I was looking at a midnight close, and also knowing my trusty colleague Rideman would be coming later, this sounded to be about a good time to arrive. Repeating last week's entrance, I did the "Chariots of Fire" dash once again back to Windseeker, with the big difference that the ride was open. Now, I also knew Rideman wanted to ride this ride, and I could do the polite thing, go ride some other rides, and wait for him, or I could sieze the moment and ride now. I opted for the ride now option.

The ride, not surprisingly had a full queue and was just starting to overflow out of the potable queue area out onto the midway. Signs had this posted as 45 minutes but I don't think it takes that long. The portable extension is not that long, just sort of helps direct the line. The queue area runs in a semi circle around one half of the ride, as is common for flat rides. It is three lanes deep, and taking a trick from Disney, you start with the lane nearest the ride and work your way out, at least for the first quarter circle, then on the outermost lane, you walk about halfway around the ride. The inner two lanes in the back half of the queue area is the bullpen for the next ride. At the far turn a grouper assigns seats. Now, I made fun of the grouper at Kentucky Kingdom who used a device that looked to be inspired by an abacus, or one of those kids beads-on-a-track toys to keep track of seats assigned in their motion theatre. At Windseeker the park has given the grouper a dry erase clipboard and they mark off seats assigned much like the host marks off tables at a restaurant. It seems weird, but then there are 32 cars each seating 2 to keep track of, and many odd party sizes.

So I get my seat assignment, and they direct me to one of two lanes, for front half and back half of the ride. The park learned from Delirium and Drop Tower - this time there are two entry gates, but also two exit gates. Windseeker is one of the trendy new high altitude circle swing rides. It's essentially much like Zephyr, only the swings go up to just shy of 300' in the air. The height really does make the ride, and its also what makes peoples phobias get the better of them.

I think by now Zamperla, Mondial, and FunTime have versions of this ride to market, and I would not be surprised if its on the drawing boards at other manufacturers. I have not yet ridden the Zamperla version, but I have a feeling I may get that experience with Sparkler next year (see the benefit of writing these trip reports so late), but I have some experience with the Fun Time version both in Orlando at Magic Midway, as well as Oktoberfest in Munich. Kings Island has the Mondial version, and the main difference here is the seat attachment is much more rigid than on the Fun Time. Don't get me wrong the swings still swing, but the main attachment is tubular piping instead of just chains or steel cable. The Mondial also has a fantastic LED light show that gives it some carnival midway flash that Coney Mall sorely needs.

I take my seat, drop down the overhead lap bar, which is similar to the kind used on a chairlift. A safety strap connects the lap bar to the seat base, as a back up to the bar lock. I can tell you, as a larger rider, the rides computer is more demanding than the seat belt, so just because the belt is fastened, doesn't mean you are good. A rule of thumb is to look at the stub end of the lap bar, it it isn't lower than the armrest, your in trouble. Mondial did something dumb here. They mounted two lights on the outboard side of each seating unit. When the lap bar locks, the light goes out. Seems simple enough except the light is red, on a red background, and once you add the sun into the equation the loaders can't really see them. The advice from the control booth isn't much better "You've got a bar open" Gee, thanks. Warning to larger riders, even if your bar is fine, you will be the first ones they target, and will staple you in the hopes that you are the culprit. This is more annoying when they find out you weren't the problem. They really need to add some kind of box around those indicator lights so the loader can see them easier. This ride loads much faster at night than it does during the day.

So once they have spent 10 minutes playing "Which bar is loose?" the ride starts. At first the cars raise straight up for awhile, before the ride starts turning. The ride does offer on board audio by means of speakers mounted to the ride gondola, so the speakers raise and lower with you. At the top the ride spins for a while, and even speeds up. Not too fast, it just gives a slight hint of laterals. It would be a perfect family ride, if people would get over that whole 300' up thing. You also learn Coney Mall is not that interesting to look down on. But that is a problem parks have had for awhile since they use "movie set" style construction that says "If the guest can't see it, it doesn't have to be finished" In this particular case, just adding chaser lights to Racer would do a world of good.

So, the ride then slows down to its slower spin setting, and then lowers down. Again once it hits some magic point, the rotation stops, and you lower straight down. That was great, in fact I rode it again. This time in the outside seat instead of the inner seat. No, it's not a thrill ride, but it scores high on the just pure fun meter.

After that, I started my tour of the park. First I walked over to Vortex, but alas Vortex was closed. Rumors on Facebook indicated the ride ride had broken a lift chain, so I won't be expecting this to open anytime today. I didn't even bother walking back to X-Base and its long lines. Instead of snagged a ride in the Schmeck seat of both Racers, with their usual near walk on waits. I followed that up with a ride on Adventure Express. By that time I was within 15 minutes of my meet up time with Rideman. I did stop at what was Lt. Dan's Bar to have a Sam Adams. It seemed a patriotic thing to do.

I enjoyed my Sam Adams while looking at the patriotic decorations on International Street. I also noticed the Komen Cancer fundraiser is back, but this year instead of just chucking generic pink rubber ducks into Royal Fountain, the park came up with Snoopy in Pink Innertube toys for you to toss into the fountain. Who said Cedar Fair could not theme something, I also got word that Rideman was delayed. I walked over to Planet Snoopy and scored rides on Boo Blasters, Woodstock, and Surf Dog. For once, I hit the seat selection lottery on Surf Dog and got a back row end seat. The ride is much better back there, and it does seem the park is running a slightly better program on this ride, not as good as when it was first installed, but a bit better than what it had been running. The line for Flying Ace was excessive, so I headed back towards Tower as I got the word to head to Windseeker.

This time Rideman and I both ride Windseeker together. He evaluated the ride in his own special way, but I think we both give it a positive review. We then headed to Rivertown to get some Diamondback rides in. After Diamondback we started making our way around the park, picking up a ride on Flight Deck. Flight Deck is noteworthy in that they have done something really inexpensive to the ride that really helps the theming. What they have done is marked up the floor under the final brakes to look like a runway, and you are landing. In slightly more costly upgrades it looks like they are starting to bring a tiny but of the lower queue area theme package back to life. Credit where credit is due.

We proceeded to rides on Delirium and Viking Fury. We got a ride on Adventure Express and instead of heading into Coney, we took a trip to the top of Eiffel Tower to get a look around. After Tower we headed back to Diamondback for some more rides. As it was getting late, we decided the new plaza by Windseeker would probably make a good fireworks viewing area. However, instead of standing around for an hour, we got in line, which by now was back to the Dino's Alive entance. Bad timing as the fireworks started going off just as we were two cycles to load, and the shade canvas over the queue area and the structure of Racer does not give great viewing from the queue. We advance to the bull pen, even worse. The ride cycles, we board, we get to watch part of the extra long show while riding Windseeker. This is a pretty cool view, to be even with, and maybe even looking down on the fireworks. We exited the ride, and the show continued for some time longer.

I can't fault the length of the show, but it had no single elements that really stood out. No tower pyro, only 1 staging area doing one show, and it was more like they just ran the normal show 3 or times with some patriotic music backing it up. Maybe one of the lamest 4th of July fireworks shows I have seen at the park.

At the end of the show, we wound up being with a bunch of other enthusiasts, some who claimed they started the day at Cedar Point, and it had gotten so crazy that by 1, the left Cedar Point and headed to Kings Island. Before we knew it our strange coasternut behavior group found themselves swept up into the Windseeker queue, not a bad thing at all.

After Windseeker, we were going to head to Beast and then finish the night at Diamondback. Well, that was the plan before we ran into the sluggish Beast crew. The line didn't even look that long, but it sure took long enough. Midnight struck as we were out on the course ending the night on Beast.

Next Visit: Some time in 2012. I have a 2012 pass ready to go. I didn't mean for my Kings Island season to end after July 3rd. I even had the curiosity to want to check out the parks new express program, Fast Lane. It wasn't unusual not to go anymore in July as the park is just too crowded, and August was roasting hot, as if to balance out the washed out spring we had. September the park is mainly closed for park buy outs, and what was left? On Labor Day weekend I was at Cedar Point, and on the only other September weekend I was on the East Coast doing my non coaster vacation. October just had too many things going on, and the one day I was planning on going, I decided not to. Good thing, as I was awarded with numerous Facebook posts and Twitter tweets telling me about the insane crowds I was missing, and these posts were from people I know well enough that when they say the park was insane, it truly was. Oh, I did make it to Universal Florida, but that is the subject of another trip report.