Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Monday, September 13, 2021

TR: Waldameer - September 5, 2021

 Trip Report: Waldameer

Erie, PA
September 5, 2021

“Now this is an old school park that I would be proud to have as my home park”

Continuing off of yesterday’s trip to Camden Park, we had foursome today with April and Tony joining us for a trip to Waldameer. The goal was a 9AM departure, and by group standards we did pretty well with a 9:30 departure, part of that taken up by the discovery that the ice machine didn’t make any ice overnight, which we were planning on using for the cooler. While contemplating on how to solve this problem, we first turned the ice maker on and waited a while, until we realized there is a bodega right across the street that sells ice. Bag of ice purchased, part of which went in the cooler, the rest of which went in the freezer. Then it was off, and just one comfort stop along the way we were pulling into Geneva-on-the Lake, OH.

This is a resort town right by Lake Erie, and like many resort towns, has a main drag for the tourist lined with tourist traps like arcades, mini golf, water sports equipment rentals, and more casual dining opportunities than you can shake a stick at. We were lucky to find street parking almost right across from where we were planning on eating. As I hesitated to cross the street, they said “The traffic on this street is constant, but just start to cross and it will stop” Sure, I’ve heard that one before, but in this town it really is true, just start to act like you are crossing and all traffic comes to a halt. It’s that “everybody is on vacation having a fun laid back time” mentality. On the way to our restaurant, I passed another that has taken the news of being rated “The worst breakfast ever” on Trip Advisor, as putting as listing said breakfast on the menu as “Trip Advisors Worst Breakfast Ever” proving no publicity is bad publicity. We passed what looks like a theatre converted into an arcade, but unfortunately all it had was a few crane games out front.

Next up was Eddie’s Grill. This is exactly what you think of when you think 1950’s hamburger stand, you order out front at a window from a simple menu: hot dogs, burgers, sloppy joe, fish, fries or slaw. There is a Dairy Queen in the same building for desert. Oh and craft root beer. We each got us a chili dog with assorted toppings. Cheese comes in the form of slices and is under the hot dog, then the dog, then the chili, then well they have a full toppings bar, go crazy. It’s not Cincinnati chili, so a bit sweeter than I am used to, but it satisfied, unlike the very unremarkable and overpriced fries I got to go with it. I should have known when the more experienced Eddies’ diners amongst us didn’t get any fries. Oh, and the root beer was tasty as well. We ate out on the expansive outside patio, and from where I was sitting you could look down the street and see Lake Erie. They also have a vintage jukebox with booth boxes – and their tactic seems to be they play German oom-pah-pah music unless somebody plays the jukebox, which overrides the background music. As we were finishing up lunch, and with some distance still to travel, there were calls for another type of facility. I heart how those at Eddie’s are small, primitive, and made to be just about as uncomfortable as possible. This led to a small side conversation about how this is a common problem in tourist zones like these. Nobody wants to run restrooms because of the work and cost involved, leaving travelers in a lurch.

After lunch, Dave and I took a walk down the main drag, I peeked in some arcades but I didn’t see any old school type games. Our goal though, was to show me a grass lot tucked behind some businesses. Dave showed me a building. It was a dull gray building with a nice size from porch, but more peculiarly the two single doors are set into what looked to be double doors or wider in their past life, one on each end of the porch. Looking at the concrete porch you could see remnants of a track and grooves worn into the porch. IF that didn’t give it away, looking up towards the roof line, this rather plain building had the traditional haunted house façade on the front of its roof, just painted over in gray. Yep, this was once the dark ride, at what once what Erieview park, as it sat on the lakeside. Next to the former dark ride building is a building with a bunch of service type size windows that might have been games or food, except Dave told me the park didn’t both much with food, seeing as the whole main drag has it in abundance. We walked around with a “this ride used to be here, and this ride there” A pathway marks out what was once the train ride, and at one far end a Ferris Wheel still remains as the last ride, and reminder to this park. Turns out the rest of the group found us, we walked back on the other side of the street, did find and use the public restroom building, which while most vandal proof in design, was a better offering. Lastly, a group photo in front of Eddie’s, and back on the road.

Next up, Waldameer!

We turned into one of Waldameer’s parking lots, and went right past what looked like two overflow lots and found ourselves in a lot right up behind the rides, parked roughly in back of the log flume. Waldameer is operated the old fashioned way, no parking charge, no admission charge, in fact there are gates around the park you can enter and exit through that are no-where near the ticket booths, and these gates are left open and unattended. As we walked up to the entrance gate, we noted a large sign proclaiming that there would be no on site ticket sales for labor day, all guests must buy the ride pass, and they must do it in advance, and that no tickets would be sold, even on line after 5pm. Luckily that is tomorrow, and we keep heading to the gate. Here is where the effects of the staffing shortage are showing for the park. Of 8 ticketing lanes, only 1 was open. Further signs indicated that due to staffing issues several rides were closed (luckily mostly in the water park), and that others would operate on a rotating basis throughout the day.
Lanes 1-4 are for any customer, and 5-8 are so called Express lanes, this is where people with a pre purchased ticket or season pass can go, essentially anybody that doesn’t need the cashier. As I said only 1 lane was open which meant we were in the same line as other day guests as ourselves and also season ticket holders that just needed to scan in and get their wristbands for the day. We were happy to learn the large family ahead of us were all season ticket holders, that should go quick right? I don’t know what made that so difficult, but that seemed to take forever. How long, well normally you pay the first person, they give you a ticket, then you step down to the next window turn in ticket and they put an armband on you. This group required manager intervention for something, so the manager assisted them at the second window, and we paid and got our armbands at the first window, and when we were done they were still blocking the lane ahead of us, so we backed out and went In through the closed lane ahead of us. Mind you that was with all of us paying for tickets.

(Ride-A-Rama Purhcase price $34 – Value of rides taken so for $0.00) – Note – rides are on a pay per ride basis, or you can get the Ride-A-Rama which is all the rides, or the POP which includes the water park. Rides are priced in “Wally Points” where 1 point = $1.

We get into the park and purposely turn whichever way said family was not going. This led us to the Comet, which is the parks older, smaller wood coater. About halfway between the junior woodies at the old KECO parks and the Stricker’s Grove Torndo., with a track plan that is similar but not an exact match, We get in line and after scanning in at the turnstile, find ourselves in a rather short wait, just the last twist of the queue as it winds its way up to the station. Operations are very efficient, in fact it is not uncommon to see both trains in the station at once, with one in unload and the other in load. In an interesting timing quirk it seems the incoming train is let into the unload station at the same time the lap bars are locked on the loading train. I guess the idea is, that before the trains cold possible collide the riders in the front train are properly seated. It’s a curved station, and out we go, the track is stained wood with red trim. It’s the double out and back with some gentle hills, but it does have a couple pops of air on it. At the end of the ride, the unload ramp mirrors the load ramp, just on the other side of the station, except there are two ramps on the unload side that run alongside each other, one is the exit, and the other is the ADA access ramp. At the end of the exit is one of those old fashioned 4 arm non counting turnstiles that used to be at the entry doors of every drug and discount store to make sure people didn’t back out without going through the check lanes. I guess when those fell out of favor, they were all rounded up and brought to Waldameer. The path with also narrows down where you have to sort of stuff yourself through facing sideways, then as if that isn’t enough, there is a push gate after that. Dave told me to used to this arrangement. I noted the ADA gate is blocked by a mag locked gate.
Wally Points: Ridden: 3 – Points to Break Even: 31
Enough small talk, let’s head to the main attraction. Dave detours me through the Gift House, and well, let’s just say it looks like the day after the red tag sale. I can see I’m not getting anything here either. Why is it the parks where I really WANT to get something, doesn’t have anything Behind the Gift House we find Ravine Flyer II. 2, you may ask, as well you should as the park even has a display about how the parks old coaster was the Ravine Flyer, and this new ride takes up the same park of the park, including the picnic pavilion to your left which was the original station. We enter under the sign, then the pathway goes down a winding downward ramp, under the track, and into what would today be a dis-used queue area. We take the shortest possible path, and headed right up to the turnstile. Here they were only letting one train load at a time onto the platform. Dave and I head to that back seat, no trouble with belts and bars.

Today the ride would only be running 1 train (the blue one), but with such a short line, I can’t fault the park of this, You exit straight out of the station, pass the transfer track to the left hand side, and then go you turn left under the Do not stand up sign and up the lift hill. The lift hill topper looks almost just kike Voyage, same flags, maybe even the same colors, except the park does give a nod to its closeness to Canada by having both Canadian and the US flags at the top of the lift. As you crest the lift wooded forest turns into a commanding view of Lake Erie, and just as you are about to say OH Wow, look at that Vieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwww! You are being thrust down and to the right, a wooden tunnel, then a blue net tunnel as you cross over a 4 lane state highway (Supposedly the only coaster to cross a 4 lane state highway), then Spaghetti bowl one, it’s like the Voyage turnaround, lot of twists and turns, some drops, then, wham, back across the bridge into spaghetti bowl 2. I don’t know where to begin to describe this coaster other than a twisted delight of lateral goodness, with some nice drops tossed in for good measure. Then it’s back to the station, down the ramp, through the rotary, through the push gate. This time the ADA mag gate is on the main exit path just shy of the rotary. The conjecture is since this is a pay per ride park, ride ticket integrity is a big concern, so both ride entrances and exits are heavily protected to defend against stow-a-ways. Also in terms of integrity, the park has gone cashless, and both cash to card and Wally Points for rides and games can be purchased from self serve kiosks throughout the park, or from any ticket center.

Wally Points: Ridden: 7.5 – Points to Break Even: 26.5

We exit the Ravine Flyer and come across April H, who wants to ride the Ferris Wheel, but due to the parks no single riders rule on the Ferris Wheel, cannot. Our own April goes off to check on something else, so Tony, Dave and I ride the conveniently placed Chance Wipeout located right next to Ravine Flyer. I was a bit worried about this one, but I helped the automatic lap bar find its locking notch and all was good. AS it turns out we all wound up riding single, thanks, to the seatbelts the park added,. This ride combines the up and down hilly motions of the old Trabant, with some moments of high sustained laterals like a Hurricane, and what’s more you get to go both forwards and back, each compartment seats 4 with 2 benches facing towards each other, so it’s a group ride. At this ride the exit rotary was more pronounced in how it slowed down getting off the ride.

Wally Points: Ridden: 10.5 – Points to Break Even: 23.5

Speaking of slowing things down, we met up with Pete, Lee, April H and one other, was it a Steve, sorry I forgot your name. So Strange Coaster Nut Behavior commenced until a command decision was made o steer the group towards the Sky Ride. The Sky Ride here gives a nice tour of the of about ¾ of the park. You see the park kind of forms an L shape, and the sky ride is at one end of the long arm of the L, and floats over the Big Rig, Carousel, Music Express, Dodgems, Disko, and some of the picnic pavilions. To the left you can see the water park beyond. You ride to a point just past the Disko then turnaround, no one way rides here. I was bummed to see the Disko closed. We float back the other way waving at each other as we passed around the return bullwheel. A nice park overview, then guess what more Strange Coaster Nut Behavior.

Wally Points: Ridden: 13.5 – Points to Break Even: 20.5

The group splintered, and hey really 8 people is just too unwieldy for any length of time. We pass the closed Spider, and head to the Wacky Shack. The Wacky Shack is the parks haunted house, a vintage Bill Tracy dark ride. The queue was almost all the way to the back of the ride and back, without using the extension. Several park signs use the threat of losing your wristband as a deterrent, the dark ride animated host takes it a step further “You may lose your wristband, perhaps with your arm STILL attached” The futuristic mold cars remind me of the ones LeSourdsville Lake had on their dark ride, and have a simple overhead lap bar. It looks like a shack out front with rolling eyes, color changing windows and other visual gags. Inside its first through the mine trestles then the rotating barrel, where some might note a ramp on the floor causes the car to life up slightly as if it was rotating as well. A turnsround back a friendly skull, then you actually get to see the rotating drum mechanism with some skeletons being tortured. It’s clear the floor is rather tilted in some rooms, and some parts are well lit and others are nice and dark. About midway through you go outside, and do a slight roller coaster like dip out front, before going back in. You go past a set of doors each one appearing to be smaller than the last, a loud heartbeat you can feel as you stare at the monster just beyond the final door before you go into the strobe room, orange and green paint and the scariest dark ride spook ever, I mean it looked just like me. (a large mirror), and you have the swamp, the drunkard in a bathtub, and of course you end with the semi truck coming at you head on. It’s a classic masterpiece.

Wally Points: Ridden: 16.5 – Points to Break Even: 17.5

Just past the Wacky Shack is something that will make you say “They don’t build them like that anymore” I’m talking about Pirates’s Cove, a Bill Tracy walk through. The facade of the ride looks like a ships deck with cannons point out, and the queue area is between the cannons and the haunt itself. IT seemed they were letting people in just as fast as they came, so you went through conga line style. Both entry and exit doors next to each other so the attendant could keep track of both. You enter, up a few stairs and turn and then the one and only really demanding physical obstacle type stunt, the shifting floor where you step onto metal panels, each half the path wide, that sift back and forth opposite each other, Those not athletically inclined can be glad there is a clear and easy bypass to this element. You then head inside (yes the “lets watch people try to not fall” stunt is on full display of the midway) IT becomes apparent the haunt is encased inside a much larger building, and they have the fans up high. You ass a lot of stationary tableaux, as well as a few fun house classics like a tilt room or two. The rooms with different handrail configurations so you have to both up and down the tilted surface, I had to chuckle at the teens and younger ducking under the handrails to skip through, totally missing the whole point of the element. At the top of the tilt room you then go down a rather steep ramp, as Dave said the fact there are several walls you have to zig zag between will help limit your fall. Fine there are just too many of them and that part feels like an overly long gag. It seems the haunt was getting to its best telling the story right before it ended. You have the room where water is coming in the side of the ship, the sea monster, the drunken pirate singing rum and all that. Then one blat of cold air and a curtain later and its back outside.

Wally Points: Ridden: 19.5 – Points to Break Even: 14.5

We then pass by the closed for the day Log Flume, and we first take a small stop, where amongst the facilities, Dave points out to me that dogs are welcome in the park, so much so that he asked me to look at the water fountains. Ah yes, there is adult, child, and dog height fountains. I want to see the dog beabe to reach up and press the button though. Noting the bowl to be dry, Dave pressed the button which fills the bowl for the next thirsty puppy.

Next up, time for Steel Dragon. Stgeel Dragon is one of those spinning coasters. From the front end it looks like yet another Wild Mouse spinner. Waiting through the full queue for it, however, takes you back to see a much more inspired, or shall I say demented track layout. We get in, and at first the operator isn’t happy with my lapbar, but one shove later and we are good to go. We exit the station, quick right to the lift, and a very speedy trip up the lift, no time is lost here. Turn right, go across the back of the ride, right and then drop, from there on it’s anybody’s guess as the layout is demented and the car can spin. I say the car can spin, as our car didn’t do much spinning. Still, it’s a lot better than the Reverchons that were all the rage 15 years ago.

Wally Points: Ridden: 24 – Points to Break Even: 10

From here, we have to walk right past X-Scream, the parks drop tower. It was a one cycle wait, and Dave chides me for taking a park view instead of the better lake view. Oh well, at first I thought I was going to get no view, but the operator was able to get better leverage than me, and up we went. There is no pause, no warning, you are still going up admiring the view when, WHAM SLAM Thank you mam, you are back down. At the end I found that I also could not reach the belt release. Dave stepped in to save me. Then I still have to chuckle about buiding a 4-6 person wide exit ramp that narrows down to one rotary. I mean we could have two or there rotarys at the bottom.

Wally Points: Ridden: 27 – Points to Break Even: 7

We start to get in line for the Tilt-A-Whirl, but it’s line had just been cut off for operator rotation. We come back to Ravine Flyer II, and hey since we are here, let’s go for another ride. We woukld hve had no wait, except they did let us wait several cycles to get into the front seat. Ah, yes a real commanding view of the lake from this vantage poiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnttttttttt. <Insert maniacal wooden twisting coaster here>. All told, it was a good move to ride the Ravine Flyer as we exitied, and soon me tback up with the full group of 8.

Wally Points: Ridden: 31.5 – Points to Break Even: 3.5
WE then all finally made our way over to that Ferris Wheel ride we had been talking about since right after the first Ravine Flyer II ride, we splt up into two groups 4 for a ride on the big wheel,. Problem is, the park has such a nice tree canopy, there really isn’t that much view from the wheel except for the peak of Ravine Flyers lift hill, and a bit of the lake beyond.

Wally Points: Ridden: 35.5 – Points to the Good: 0.5

It was at this point we decided to leave the park to eat. Hey we had to eat somewhere anyway, and we chose Sara’s which is just across the street from the park, we passed overflow lots that made us cringe at the thought they might be used some days, and we passed under the roller coaster bridge, so got that taken care of as well. You see Sara’s is roughly in back of Steel Dragon. Sara’s is a 1950’s hamburger stand that takes it theme to the hilt. From the decorations in the original walk up service building, to the classic cars parked about, to the authentic diner car in back the palce oozes atmosphere, and for being in a resort area (Presque Isles) and by an amusement park, is actually priced quite affordably. $10 gets you a bacon cheeseburger basket with choice of side and a coke, another $1.50 upgrades that to a shake. I declined the house favorite – the fired zucchini sticks, and opted for the more conventional onion rings, and even better the drinks come with free refills. We headed outside to a picnic table and share a nice coaster crazy dinner, followed by another of their signature items, the Orange Dreamsicle soft serve cone.
After that, we headed back to the park. Here is where we made our big mistake. We wanted to be sure to take in the train ride, unfortunately we must have gotten to the train just after it left. We should have gone and ridden the flat rides and come back to the train, after all the train is a high capacity ride. Nope, we waited in the train station. It’s a unique waiting arrangement as the thin queue lanes are lined with benches, so you get a spot on the bench to wait while still in an orderly line. We see a train come back, not knowing it had really only done half the ride. The train really does return, and we are asked to load from the back seat forwards. Train loaded, All Aboard called, the train takes off. Out of the station, and then through a track switch onto a single track that runs through the center of the waterpark, then along side the back of the park and the hill overlooking the lake. Too bad it had gotten dark by now, you get to the area by the Northern End kids ride area, and do a turnaround to feed back onto the single track, back alongside the hillside, back through the waterpark, through another track switch, past the back of the train station, then all the way around the parks rather expansive picnic grove, and of course through the obligatory long train ride tunnel. We get back to the station and yikes, all told wait and ride that was half an hour.

Wally Points: Ridden: 38.5 – Points to the Good: 3.5

From there RIdeman goes to get some more Ravine Flyer goodness, but I mistakingly think, surely I can nail two walk on flat rides and get back to the coaster in time. Spoiler alert: I could not.

I first stop at the Music Express, but not just any Music Express, this one is absolutely beautiful with a grand lighting package, classic music, and most importantly they aren’t afraid to turn the speed up to 11, for extended periods of time. Thus is how these were meant to be. That was well worth it.

Wally Points: Ridden: 42.5 – Points to the Good: 7.5

From there, I note the DIskO is open (Mega Vortex), and hey I just don’t see this ride very often. It’s similar to the Rocking Tug, just with a taller faser U shaped track, and instead of long bench seats on a rectangular car, you have a round car with a ring of motorbike style seats facing out around the rim. I sit down straddle the seat, make myself as one with the front of the seat, and had no issues when the automatic safety bar came up from behind and locked in back of the small of my back, slightly pushing me further into the front support. After that it was spinning goodness while going up and down and back and forth. Another great ride.

Wally Points: Ridden: 46.5 – Points to the Good: 11.5

The park has a clock right at the entrance to Mega Vortex, and as I walked past I noted it said 8:55 on a 9pm close. I booked it down the midway as fast as I could, but saw the red “NO more riders” gate closed across Ravine Flyer II’s entrance before I got there. Instead of sulking, I continued booking it over to Whacky Shack. IT looked dismal. The ride was lit up, but no riders in sight, I marched on into the queue where the entire queue maze had been shunted so you went right to the turnstile, and giving the operator a case of sad puppy dog eyes, he said to go ahead and get on. A haunted house at night, it just feels right, and I did notice things the second trip through I missed on the first.

Wally Points: Ridden: 49.5 – Points to the Good: 14.5

So, as you can see I did come out ahead on the Ride-A-Rama, not an insane amount, but we did get to the park at 2:30 or 3, had some Strange Coaster Nut Behavior, had the group meal at Sara’s, and had the lapse of judgement at the train ride. Given all that, we did pretty well, and ok, hat I actually used Wally Points, I would have only spent 47.50, with 2 free points on a $25 purchase, but yeaah the Ride-A-Rama was the way to go. I met up with the rest of the group at Ravine Flyer II, you can tell when each ride and stand in the park clears, as the lights go out. Have fun making your way out through a minimally lit park. Dave did his usual at of being the last rider of the night on Ravine Flyer, then a comfort stop. Then we grouped back at the car.

As we pulled out of the lot, April chided me for not getting any night rides on Ravine Flyer II, to which Dave defended me with “He chose the rides he wanted to ride” After that was the long trip back home, the Quest for A Frozen Coke continued (and yes we had a success story!!!!!!) , and we made a mystery stop, at a mystery location, to have some mystery food while talking with some more mystery friends. Then the long drive home, slushies, rest stops, etc, and we pulled in to Dave’s place at what 3-3:30 in the morning?

As you might guess, none of us were energetic the next day, even the ones that didn’t go to work. I probably didn’t get my shower till like 11 or noon,. And we didn’t get on the road till 2. The plan was Strickers, but after April and Tony backed out we decided to just do Kings Island, so no need ffor a trip report of a park I have done a zillion times, particularly since nothing particularly interesting happned there. Sure tower is closed, Haunt and fall fest decorations are going up, and it was the last day of the season for water rides, but we just rode the wood coasters, Adventure Express, Shake Rattle and Roll, and that’s it.

We did have a prolonged trip down, we first headed to Schmidt’s German Villiage, at 2:15 restaurant should be a walk in, but we were quickly scared away with a projected 2 hour wait, the parking lot and waiting area did not suggest it should be that bad. We headed to Grove City, where we did find a sit right down Bob Evans, with the slowest service (partly on the part of a seemingly brain dead server) that took way too long. Adding to that was the man at the table booth next to us how must have thought the entire restaurant wanted to hear him, even AFTER his food arrived. I mean the people eating with him couldn’t even get a word in edge wise. Then Dave’s Chicken Noodle deep dish came with reportedly no actual chicken, but it took so long to get that, and the noise from the next booth, by the time the food did arrive we just wanted to scarf it down and get out of there. Which meant we didn’t get to the park till almost 6 pm on an 8pm close, hence no real need for a real TR.

TR: Camden Park - September 4, 2021

 TR: Camden Park

Huntington, WV
September 4, 2021
“Old School Charm, and unusual ride features”

The Backstory: As anybody that has followed my ramblings for the past 25 years or so may know a few things about me. One, due to certain vision issues, I cannot drive. Secondly, for the past 20- years or so, I have maintained a network of friends, one of which I met maybe 25 years ago, Dave Althoff, Jr. Beyond coasters we stay in touch year round, and in a random conversation, Dave mentioned wanting to get back to Waldameer again this season. Knowing Dave likes to do his park visits on Sundays (“Nobody goes to parks on Saturdays, it’s too darned crowded”) , I slid in a self-invitation that if he chose the Sunday of Labor Day weekend I’d see wht I could do about getting to and from Columbus. Well, as things worked out, he did decide on Waldameer for Sunday, and I had sourced a way to Columbus. Then the wheels started turning, what if he went to Kings Island on Friday, then he could get me Friday night and we could do Camden Park on Saturday. Having not been to either park, I, of course, was salivating at the thought. Camden Park is equidistant from either my house or Dave’s is just that we are also a fair distance from each other. Well, then we had Hurricane Ida to look after, and all told, Dave said he would go to Cedar Point on Friday, and he would get me Saturday, and if timing looked good, we’d go to Camden.

So its Saturday, and Dave comes to get me at 1:45, its two and half to three hours to Camden Park, but they are slated to be open until 9, and as Dave said, you don’t exactly need a long time to see the park,. So we head out to the east, and as it turns out , our timing was just about perfect. We only made a couple rest stops along the way, one of those at a gas station just down the road from the park where Dave strongly advised taking care of any restroom needs there, rather than at the park. It should be noted that gas station restrooms have generally improved over the years as the stations focus on being the travelers go to for anything they may require during their trip.

Accordingly we are pulling into Camden Park by their iconic vintage clown sign right around 4:40. A quick stop to pay a $5 parking fee and we park the car in a nice close up space and head to the ticket booth. I do mean ticket booth singular. There was a crowd at the booth, but as we deduced from their matching shirts this they would all be one transaction, and they were. We get to the booth and are very happy we did not take the park up on its offer to send $17 to their Pay Pal account, then bring the Pay Pal confirmation to the park in what must be a convoluted online ordering process, as we learned that since we arrived after 4:30 we get Starlight admission, all this for $9.99 + taxes. That’s right an amusement park admission that includes the rides for under $10. We pay our admissions and get a green ticket which , we continue a few feet further to the main gate and hand back in.

Immediately to the left upon entering the gate it Kiddieland, but we keep heading straight past the rental center and come to what passes as the midway in these here parts. Straight ahead of us is the gift shop. We make a left hand turn, and on my left is a row of food stands, then the Haunted House, then the pizza stand, ending with the carousel. To the right is a bunch of trees with a ramp on either side them, some benches and ACE landmark sign which I suppose serves as the sign for the Big Dipper. If you peek up above the trees you can see the Big Dipper just peeking out over the trees. Yes, this is the parks major roller coaster. IT’s right up front by the main gate. It’s not the world’s –est anything, standing at a modest 50 feet high and sporting a 35 foot biggest drop, its barely bigger than the mid-sized junior coasters. But, it is a rare example of a surviving NAD (Dayton, OH) Vaszin designed coaser. Like most of the parks rides, the gates or ramps are marked with simply large IN or OUT signs, we got the left hand ramp marked IN and start up to the station. It’s a very simple station completely hidden in the trees. Two ramps come down flanking the park benches and ACE sign. Both ramps go up towards the station, turn and then meet roughly in the center of the station. On the load end of the station the near side of the station is taken up by a queue area, the unload side has a wide unload platform in this space,. Between unload and load there is a wooden board with a bunch of holes in it apparently for the cotton candy I didn’t see anybody having. When you get to the head of the line, there is a gate and maybe a one and a half person wide walkway down the side of the train. No seat lanes, this is first come first served. Much like most of the day, the wait would usually be to wait for the next train, maybe 1 more, the longest we waited was a 3 train wait.

The train waiting for me, well it’s an authentic NAD Century Flyer. The front grill work looks to be mostly intact, it has headlights in the sockets but they don’t appear to function. It’s a 3 car, 3 bench train, and for my first ride, I hop into seat 8. I noted seat 9 has been gutted, no seat, and perhaps even no lapbar. Dave reports that seat 9 has been missing for years. With it being a NAD train, the single operator first has to count off people and let them onto the platform, then close the gate, cross over to the other side of the platform, go to each car and lock the lapbars in each car manually. No issues with the lap bar. There is only an opening on the one side, and the seat, the back, and the sides are nicely padded, there is even a knee pad in front of you. Imagine that, a coaster train that looks like it was built with rider comfort in mind.

Ok, so how is it. Well let’s take the ride element by element. You leave the station and make a turn to the right to the lift hill that cuts diagonally across the structure. During you climb up the lift you are treated to the train rocking from side to side leaving a lingering feeling of just how well is it connected to the track. When you ride in the front seat, you can actually see the lift chain twisting back and forth. Coming off the lift, the first drop is a tease, only a few shallow feet deep and back up, then a turnaround back to the left, for the first return run you go straight along the midway, down the second (and main) drop, here back car riders get a blast of ejector air, front car riders get a floater to moderate air, back up then another shallow dip, and turnaround to the left again continuing straight on the second pass, its down a nice drop and a couple hills that set up a totally weird part where your coaster cars are rocking violently back and forth. Premier Rides could never figure out the subway stair drop for their coasters in 2005, but Camden Park figured it out in the 1950s. The second outbound pass ends with an unhill climb into a long dark tunnel that covers the whole turnaround (to the left) and even part of the drop off the turnaround (those headlights could have showed off here). For the fourth pass it’s another diagonal crossover with the rides final dips and up into the brake run where the train comes in with a nice bit of speed behind it until slowed down, and then brought into the unload area where a track mounted mechanism releases the lap bars as you enter unload. (Don’t worry they thought about station blow-through with an automatic re-locker on the other end. ) Technically the operator need not ever leave the controls, so long as the lap bars are all the way down they will automatically lock as you leave the station, and release as you enter the station. I doubt any park would operate it that way in the modern. day.
The operators control area consists of three big floor levers to control the various brakes (Back, unload and load), with a rope loop that goes over one of them to prevent it from releasing itself, also a red box with a trolley handle that apparently controls the lift chain. As we head down the unload ramp, Dave asks me “When is the last time you were that scared on a rollercoaster?” “Williams Grove Cyclone!” It should also be noted the parks locker rental is also right t the Big Dipper exit. I also hear tale that the coater has been rehabbed, as in parts of the structure used to visibly shift as the train went by.

Leaving the coaster, we cross the midway to the other side. Here a wooden façade ominously greets us as we approach the Haunted Mansion. It looks fittingly for its location Appalachian in theme outsie, and after maybe a 10 person wait, we make our way through the small queue area. I note the usual large riders may not be able to ride, but also a large riders may have to ride alone. Fine by me. The front of the structure is dominated by a huge painting of the devil, under the devil you can see both a lift hill in the background, as well as a coaster like dip in front of it, sure other dark rides have a small dip in front, but this is much deeper. You load in the front left corner as viewed from the midway. I take a seat, and notice the car seems to be mounted on a single point and is free to tilt from side to side and again gives you pause about how well the car is connected to the track. There are no restraints, just a grab bar. You fist make a turnaround to the right and before you go inside, you first pass the ride safety warnings and then go up the lift hill. At the top you make a turn to the right and you may notice the track is on a constant but very slight slope down through this part. You peer out overlooking the midway before a turnaround to the right and then a tur to the left sends you down the drop and back p, you then turn right and actually enter the dark ride proper. From there it is a bunch of incoherent scenes, the kind that light up as you go by, and you do go by at a fast rate of speed. You see this is a Pretzel gravity dark ride, so after the lift hill, your car is being powered purely by gravity the rest of the ride. The track layout is known for its numerous hairpin turns, which are both thrilling as well as help bleed off some speed. Ah, maybe the cars are supposed to tilt to the sides to help with the lateral forces. After a minute or so, all good things must come to an end where you exit the building and the unload operator grabs a hold of cart to stop it while making a menacing growl. Exit to the left and down the ramp.

From there, let’s see the rest of what the park has to offer. Passing the carousel, we note the Paratrooper has enough riders so we skip it, stopping at the Slingshot. In this case the Slingshot is one of those compact figure 8 spinning coasters that are popping up everywhere. I grimace but proceed on to the ride despite the posted weight limit. Sit down on seat that’s clearly not meant of a person of my stature, as in that’s not even comfortable. While I did get the lap bar to lock, the seatbelt was just a bit too short. So it’s a no go for me, and I get Walk of Shamed, but unlike a lot of parks that offer a scripted “apology”, at least here the operator tried to make it sound sincere. I watch Dave a rather lackluster ride, and he comments that’s its not a great ride.

Now let’s review – the Haunted House – has lift hill, and you are in a cart that completes the course purely gravity fed, that sounds like a roller coaster, but technically isn’t, the Slingshot, it gets boosted by booster wheels every time through the station on its multiple circuit ride, but despite being powered at regular intervals throughout the ride is considered a roller coaster. I’m so confused, but then if I am counting the Blauer Enzians I have been on as coasters, I guess this counts as well.

We keeping walking back along the side of the Big Dipper, the last ride is Rampage, one of those compact inverting spinning pendulum rides that are also popping up all over, and that I also don’t fit on. At this point we have reached the end of this arm of the midway. We have to backtrack through the park, taking a ride on Big Dipper on the way. This time I am in seat 7 instead of 8. 7 features everything seat 8 does including a heavy dose of roughness, man that was brutal. Dave suggests maybe that is why Seat 9 is no longer there.

We pass the gift shop, then to the left is another branch off the midway, this one has the Flying Scooter, Scrambler, arcade, toy store and cafeteria. The buildings did not appear to be open, and we skipped this arm for now. Then there is a fenced off circle area, as in tall stockade fencing, which I am told hides the remains of the Spider ride, then in better news a big pavilion stricture which houses a Whip. An 8 car Mangels Whip, once a park staple all over, getting rare if the state you are in is not Pensylvania. Oh sure the kids versions are still doing strong the adult versions not so much. This one is sporting festive decals on the cars so this ride is clearly well loved. Today the queue area was blocked off, and it looks like they had us enter through the old exit, and a new exit is on the other side. I assume its new as the operator safety spiel went out of its way to point out the exit was now on the other side. I’m not at Lesourdsville Lake anymore am I. They also had this exact same model, but only ran it may half to three quarters as fast. So bad we used to mockingly call it The String instead of The Whip. This one at Camden however runs like it should. We thought it maybe even be better than the larger models like at Kennywood as you have less down time where you are just chugging along the sides waiting for the ends.

Leaving the Whip, Dave points out we are on the next area, headlined by the Whip on this end, the big stockade fence next to the Whip hides what is left of the Dodgems if anything, then the Mens restroom building. Front and center is the station for Sky Ride, so we take a ride on the Sky Ride. It’s the older model cars where it has two little bars that fold down from the sides instead of the overhead bar. Up out of the Sky Ride station, over the pony cart ride, then over the Women’s restroom building. The rest of the ride is over the parks miniature golf course. You may note it’s a long thin mini golf course, well that’s because it is filling in the space of the ride it replaced, the Thunderbolt Express – an Arrow shuttle loop coaster. (And formerly the Screamin Demon on Kings Island fame). Betweem the mini golf and the parking area is the parks special events pavilion.

We take a relaxing ride on the sky ride,, it looks like the chairs got refurbished this year, as Dave reports the ride did not run in 2020, and was in fact rumored to be slated for removal, maybe next off season they can work on the rust covered support towers. Exiting the Sky Ride, we head over the train tracks and down a hillside past a closed snack bar. We come to the Little Dipper, which is a second NAD wood coaster. AS the name suggests this is the smaller ride, probably not more than 20’ high, and on a steel pipe structure with wood track. It’s you basic kids coaster. Right out of the station, up the lift, down a drop, back up, around the turnaround, a series of tips, a second turnaround, more dips on the second pass out, last turnaround, and one more pass with a fee dips and the brake run. It’s a family coaster that rides remarkably smoothly. Its most notable feature is not so much the ride itself, but the train. If you thought the Century Flyer itself was getting rare, try the junior version of the Century Flyer. In this case they have painted the stainless steel body mostly black with yellow trim, one “headlight” remains, but the car bodies themselves have been wrapped with giant themed decals just for the ride. In short they look absolutely adorable. This one has one stop (though not flush) loading. One group exits to the front wile another enters on the same side from the rear. The train is 5 cars long, but each car only has 1 bench. However, the car itself is long enough to probably have 2 benches if they really wanted. The door are only on one side and are in the center of the car side, you sit down and realize that even us tall people have room to totally stretch our legs out. It has all the padding of the bigger train, so it feel like you are riding the coaster while sitting up in bed. Yes, the car has a lapbar. It goes no where near your lap, inted when loweed it closes over your upper legs, I’d m=imagine on a child they would do next to nothing. But then all the ride signs state quite clearly all riders must be 48” tall. Yes, 4 feet to ride a kiddie coaster, so can I really call it a kiddie coaster? In practice it looks like they really mean 48” or with an adult. At any rate, what gives the small coaster offers much roomier cars than the big coaster.

Exiting the Little Dipper, I see a pop machine, and I think hey, maybe small park means small price, nope $4 a bottle. I’ll pass. AS the path winds to the right alongside the Little Dipper, you pass the log flume on the other side. We didn’t ride it, but it looks like a fairly competent flume with two drops and what looked to easily be the longest line in the park. Passing that up we came to the extra charge Swan Boats ($6 for 20 minutes, we didn’t see any takers the whole time we were there) . We did ride the Rocking Tug, and further back the path were a Tilt A Whirl and a Kite Flyer, both appeared to be closed.

WE wind our way back to the hub of the park, and we see the train coming back. There isn’s a train station, instead there is a fuel pump and a secion of portable fencing along one side of the midway that form a loading area of sorts. We take a ride on the NAD train. You first cross the midway to the back forty, go in back of the snack bar then wrap around the back of the log flume, then around the lake, coming back with the lake and the Little Dipper on one side, and the mini golf on the other side.

It was at this point, I had to make the stop Dave warned me about, the Men’s restroom. Honestly, I just needed the urinal, and the restroom was well lit, no offensive odors, the place looked clean and there was a long row of waterless urinals along one wall, and a row of pay toilets along the other. Yes, pay toilets, A number 2 is going to cost you 2 bits. However, closer observation may notice that most of the pay boxes are in various states of disrepair, and although I didn’t have need to try one, the remainder may have been keyed to free use, I still got a Facebook chuckle out of it, at least from those that know what those boxes are, hey a person under 40 years of age may have never seen one! The sinks are in the next room.

Leaving that attraction, we took a spin on the Flying Scooters, then found the Arcade to be locked *Hey, sometimes you can find some old school games in these old parks*. We looked in the gift shop, where the selection of shirts got smaller if you needed anything over an L, and the patterns for the X or XX shirts were not to my liking, along the other wall, it looks like the shops most popular item is a stuffed clown, the same clown from the big sign out front.

We left the shop empty handed, and then we headed for the main gate, and I asked Dave nervously if he wanted to leave already, luckily that was not the case as we instead looked at Kiddieland, a row of kids rides placed in back of the dark ride building. I did manage a much better pictue of the park sign from this viewpoint. Dave pointed out a door well up in the side of the back of the dark ride building, that’s the rides one fire exit. I guess if your choices are burn or break a leg, break a leg wins. He also reminded me it is a gravity powered dark ride, if you are inside the building, unless something is blocking the track you are going to finish the ride, and they have ample room out front to stop and stack all the cars. The kiddieland ends at the carousel and so wraps back around to the main midway on that side as well. To take the edge off the appetite I get a Pronto Pup, ($3.65) I learn at the main food building that each window has its own menu, so to get a particular item you have to go its window. To be honest the Pronto was not that great, and instead of taking the edge off the appetite only seemed to encourage it like “Okay, nice appetizer, where is the main course”

We take a ride on the Paratrooper, a couple more on the Big Dipper. I try the front seat, despite the lack of gut room in the front of a NAD train, on one ride I start to get back into seat 7 before Dave strongly reminds me its first come first serve , to step back and take 8 and let some other poor victim have 7. From there we go back to get a few more on Little Dipper, so I can get a front seat on it as well. Oh, and did I mention just like the Big Dipper the back seat of the Little Dipper was also closed.

From Little Dipper, its back to the Whip, then we look at our time piece – 8:30, I know there is less than a half hour left, but he we have another 2-3 hours drive ahead of us, and big plans for the next day. As it turn out, the departure time was perfect as it got us to a Frisch’s Big Boy (one that still serves Pepsi – GROAN) but at least offers afuller menu that the local Cincinnati stores seem to offering. Anyway we got to the dining room just minutes before the store closed, so had he stayed at the park till 9pm, we would have been playing the COVID inspired game of “Where can we actually eat that does not involve drive through eating in the car”.

We then return to Columbus, after a refueling stop, and the first couple failed stops in a quest I call “The Quest for the Frozen Coke” We get to Dave’s place around 12:30. We get settled in, and I am informed the planned departure time is 9AM, plan accordingly.

Catch you for Part 2 of this saga – Waldameer!
Again, my sincere thanks to Dave Althoff for going out of his way to add this Camden Park stop to my weekend.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Trip Report: Kentucky Kingdom - 09/06/2020

 Trip Report: Kentucky Kingdom - September 6, 2020

Kentucky Kingdom
Louisville, KY
Sept 6, 2020

Today Dave Althoff and crew invited me to go on a trip to Kentucky Kingdom. I immediately accepted and we started looking at admission options. We had several offers on the table: the ACE club offer for $25 (with free drinks), the out of state guest offer for $30 with free drinks, the regular gate price of $40 without drinks, or the 2021 season pass for $50. The park is offering those who buy a 2021 pass to use it the remaining days of 2020, and with odds pretty good that we will venture to the park at least once next season, we decided to go with the season pass option. It should also be considered that the park has launched a free Pepsi for all promotion this fall.

So they pick me up right around 10:45 and we are soon on the road with less traffic than the weekend before. One quick rest stop later and we are pulling into Louisville, where a not so quick stop at Burger King for a quick lunch before entering the park.

We entered the parking lot and paid the $10 parking fee, being careful to take a receipt as the parking toll booth had a sign saying to take your parking receipt with you when you process your pass. The parking lot might have been more full than last time, but we decided to park a section out rather than keep hunting for a spot in the front section. Next we run the gauntlet of temperature and bag checks, but no metal detectors. While those that opted for single day tickets headed to the main gate, the rest of us headed around to the parks side gate. The parks side gate routes you through the season pass center. This was a quick and painless process. You hand in your voucher and parking receipt, they take your photo and hand you $10 (if you needed a parking reimbursement), and your season pass. An admissions person at the exit door to the season pass center scans your pass as you enter the park through the pass center.

WE regrouped just inside the front gate, grabbed our first free soft drink, and headed right for the Drop Tower, where we saw the line (max 4 people per cycle with COVID restrictions) and instead went for what should have been a walk on ride on Professor Johns Flying Machines (Flying Skooters), except while Tony and I were taking our baggage to the bins, the ride operator let in too many groups so we had to wit an extra cycle. The ride cycle was short, I didn't see the usual aerobatics show I expect out of Dave. I thought I was doing a good job, but just could not get a satisfying snap.

At this point we separated and Tony and Dave headed for Lightning Run, and April and I headed for the Breakdance. It was a 2-3 cycle wait for the Breakdance, we tried to share a car but soon came to the conclusion that neither of us would have been happy so we split up. AT least I had a car with a working tub brake this time, which is more than I can say for last month. They were only loading every other car due to COVID, and the ride motion on this one is quite tame.

April and I got more free drinks and we waited for the Lightning Run crew, we both tried the test seat for Lightning Run to no avail, as neither of us could get a green light. Out of curiosity I dropped the lap bar all the way to the seat and the green light still did not come on, a rather useless test seat. We pointed this out to Dave and Tony, and I think one of them noticed the power switch on the back of the test seat was turned OFF. We turned it on, still bad news but at least we had a better idea of what we are dealing with.

On Lightning Run, Dave realized he forgot his glasses strap, so we had to stop past a couple gift shop to sort that out. Then all 4 of us got in line for the Scream Extreme (A Zamperla Endeavor, the modern take on the Enterprise that it replaced), all 4 of us waited 3-4 cycles, all 4 of us boarded the ride, only 3 of us rode the ride, and this was before they could even lower the shoulder bars. those of us like me that rode the ride had quite a fun time. Its only one person per row, every other row closed (COVID) and legs dangling and no side walls. Essentially just a suspended chair. AS I said the ride action is much like an Enterprise.

After that ride, we dodged having to cross the infamous bridge by using the ground level crosswalk. It's a much easier way to get to the other side of the driveway, and you enter near the Roller Skater which was a 1 train wait, so we went for it. Again only seating every other row. It s a Vekoma kiddie coaster, move along.

We headed next into the water park. Changing rooms (yes private individual changing rooms), lockers (with barcode operated lockers, they give you a wristband) and we found some lounge chairs together that a family was vacating.

We headed to the smaller newer wave pool (yikes, its ice cold). It's only 5' deep and we got in, headed to the 'deep' end. And Dave noting the dry sides of the pool noted that this probably isn't wave pool any longer. In fact we were just about to give up on that when the buzzer sounded, and yes gentle waves started to appear. Nothing breathtaking just gentle fun waves. We stayed a wave cycle, then headed to the lazy river. Or adventure river as this one is called. You don't use tubes in this one, instead you use something akin to a pool noodle, except shorter than a pool noodle and being towards the end of the season rather beat up. The way its supposed to work is as one rider exits they hand you the pool noodle they just used. (Remember COVID hates chlorinated water so somehow this is "safe") I was skeptical but found I could comfortably stay afloat with just 1 pool noodle, so I found it amusing to find people who can't weigh half what I do taking 3 and 4 pool noodles. The most blatant offender would be the youngster ( I'm thinking pre-teen even) who must have had a dozen pool noodles. If you are thinking this is more than he could wield, you would be right, as he used one the park's loaner life jackets to bundle them together. Even still I could look the other way IF he was using the setup as a buoyancy aid, but he wasn't he was pushing the whole thing ahead of him, seeming goal to collect up all the noodles so as to deprive others from using the pool.. A staff member really should have intervened there, as it was clearly to the point of ridiculousness.

The water slide lines were a bit on the scary looking side, except for the speed slides, and I have done enough of those before that I don't need to subject myself to that again, There is a reason those things have fallen out of favor.

I went into the wave pool for another wave cycle, and soon thereafter the park came and closed the small wave pool and Adventure River for a lengthy bit of time. We decided to switch back to dry park mode and continue on.

We headed for Kentucky Flyer which had a long line owing to them only seating a maximum of 3 rows per train. We got the felling when the pools closed, everybody came here as it is in the water park, sort of. We tried the test seat, making sure this one was turned on first, and headed for the ride. It took a bit of doing for at least 2 of us, but we all got to ride the Kentucky Flyer. It's just what the park ordered if the park ordered a mild yet fun family ride, something more advanced and grown up looking than Roller Skater, but not quite as intimidating as Storm Chaser. Oh, and the theme and paint job make the ride an instant classic. However, I would not want to hypothetically ride Voyage in this train. It took awhile to get on this ride, and to the parks credit they did send security to the ride to try to enforce social distancing in the line.

After Kentucky Flyer came the Sky Catcher, the parks tower swing ride. Gladly, they were using all the seating on this ride, and I do find it to be a more fun than the WindSeeker rides. After Sky Catcher we dashed across the water park to T3, took one look at the T3 line and skipped that, as it was through the main queue area (no switchbacks open of course), and wrapped around through the old entrance and ended up almost back by the on ride photo stand. I was interested in trying this again with the racing belts, but hey after all its just a Vekoma Hang N Bang, one I had ridden many times before and this was Ton'y first time at this park we had to show him a much of it as we could. We passed the rapids ride just as it closed at 6 (not that there was much interest in that or Eye of the Storm (A RIng of Fire).

We headed to Storm Chaser where we were shocked to actually find a line. Tony and Dave waited about 20-30 minutes to ride this one. We then took the long walk back from Storm Chaser, skipped Mile High Falls, noted the Flying Dutchman was closed as the parks website told us it would be, and headed to Thunder Run. We got to Thunder Run to be the second last group let in line before they cut the line for the evening. We eventually let them ahead of us, so we could be the last ride of the night (taking rows 1 and 3 of course), we let April and Tony have the front seat and we took row 3. Riders in the other open seats got lucky as they got a double ride, so everybody was happy. Thunder Run was running in fine shape, got that airtime.
We exited the ride, and of course its now we realize we are thirsty. There is a Pepsi Oasis at the bottom of the Thunder Run exit ramp. The Oasis still had staff (goofing around doing nothing)) but would not serve us - Parks closed.
And thanks to COVID the water fountains are off. We pass closed concessions as we make our way to the crosswalk and back to the main gate. The food stands are closed, the water fountains turned off, and the pepsi machines also turned off (not much point with the park offering free fountain drinks). Of course every game joint was still open. We got to the front of the park and noted a mile long line for guest relations. I still have NO idea what that was about, but it just looked odd. Dave and I spotted the front gate drinks stand was still open and ran to it, just one other guest was able to get in line behind us before the park shut that down for the evening.

With that we left the park and had a awesome dinner at Texas Roadhouse. So, yeah maybe we didn't get a lot of rides, but we got to relax in the pool, had a delightful social dinner, and time with friends. Isn't that what it's really all about anyway, time with friends?

Kentucky Kingdom may be a park with several flaws, but it still offers a fun time, and has a few redeeming features.