October 8, 2010
Phoenix Phall Phunfest
Knoebel’s Phoenix Phall Phunfest was one of the last of the major yearly coaster events that I’d yet to attend, and having cancelled out so many times before, I really wanted to make it in 2010. I’d heard so much about the park and how great Phoenix and Twister were and I really wanted to visit. Plus, there were some other folks going that I’d yet to meet in person after knowing them online for many years.
I was flying out of Greensboro early Saturday morning heading into Philly, and then driving to Knoebel’s. I’d forgot to fill the Xterra up on Friday evening, so I had to stop and get gas, which took a little longer than I’d have liked on Saturday morning. I hadn’t actually driven to GSO from my house before as previously I headed over from work, which was about 20 minutes from the airport. The drive was longer than I’d expected. Though I’d wanted to get there at 6:30 AM since I’d left my boarding pass at work after checking in and printing it out on Friday, I needed to print one at the airport.
Once I parked outside the main terminal’s front gate I ran into the terminal to print my pass…only to find out that the self service machines have a cutoff of 30 minutes prior to departure. It was about 27 minutes prior to departure so it said to see someone at the counter.
Let me describe what it’s like flying from GSO for those of you that don’t know: Its such a small airport that it doesn’t take long to go through security, especially this early in the morning, and there were very few people there In fact, when I got there there were 3 people at the US Airways counter, no one at the other counters and no one queued for nor going thru security. It’s a nice, small airport, but that early in the morning its dead.
And all I needed was a boarding pass as I was checked in. When the woman at the counter finally called me over I told her my dilemma and she informed me that it was too late to print a boarding pass and that I’ll have to get on the next flight, which was much later in the day with an hour layover in Charlotte). I couldn’t believe it! I said “Ma’am, all I need is a boarding pass, I forgot mine, and if I had it right now, I could make it to the plane, there is plenty of time”. She refused. All she would have had to do is print the darn thing out, but she started looking at other flights. I was complaining because it was now only 5 minutes after cutoff, I didn’t need to check any bags (like the other couple in the same dilemma as myself), and I could make it thru the completely empty security queue.
She got on her radio and I thought she was a manager or security. I heard her say “Gate 45”, which was my gate. Finally, she slid me a boarding pass, told me not to say anything, to run, and that if the door at the gate was closed, I’d have to catch another flight.
I said ‘Thanks’, ran to security, rushed thru, grabbed my stuff including my shoes which I’d had to take off at security, and started running to the gate down the terminal. It wasn’t very far and I was yelling to gate 45 that I was coming. Once I arrived there were still 3 other people to be checked in and the people at the gate didn’t understand why I was rushing because there was still a good 10-15 minutes before they were going to close the door. Anyways, after boarding we were soon in the air. And since I was in the 2nd row with an empty first row, I changed seats and tried to nap.
Arrival in Philly was smooth and in no time I was de-boarding and out to find the Enterprise shuttle service. I misunderstood the guy at the counter and ended up paying $45 extra for insurance I didn’t need. Oh well. I ended up with a black Ford Fusion, and I liked it so much I got one a few months later for myself. The drive to Knoebels was much longer than I’d expected. I went up 476, across 80, and then followed signs from the billboard to Knoebel’s. I should have went to 54 then down, because I could have easily got to the campground and parked there instead of having to wait an extra long time to get in the parking lot. By this point, since everything else hadn’t gone my way, I was not in the best of moods at all.
Once I arrived the park ‘entrance’ (Does Knoebels really have an entrance?) everyone was crowded around for the arts and crafts and food due to the Covered Bridge festival. I went to the first restroom I could find, and then headed in. I didn’t know where anything was but I went to try and purchase a POP combo pass for the event. Unfortunately, it was still 1976 at Knoebel’s and they didn’t take debit or credit cards at the ticket counter. Oh, and the only close ATM was not only hard to find, but had a very long line.
Matt called and I tried to explain where I was. Eventually Matt, Josh, Joe, and Steph showed up and told me there was another much more convenient ATM near a much more convenient ticket counter so we headed there. It took a while, but eventually the mood started to break.
After paying we headed to the Grand Carousel to try and catch some rings. I ended up getting 5, but I’d never done that before so it was quite odd. Speaking of odd, the whole park was odd. It was just like a big campground with buildings selling food, with rides plopped down. I’m still not sure how I felt about the park but the Carousel was great. After we rode we headed over to the bumper cars next. The session lasted a really long time, and as we were in line Carrie texted me, so I told her where we were.
These bumper cars lived up to the Knoebel’s hype. Matt and Josh both rammed into me on each side at the same time, and I actually got a decent bit of airtime! After getting off we waited for Joe and Steph to ride and Carrie was waiting for us at the exit. She was supposed to meet Matthew Sullivan at the Fascination parlor at 2 PM, and it was around 1 PM at this point. Once we were done we headed over to the giant slide, which was also really fun. I still love slides, and anytime I can ride one as an adult it’s great.
Searching for food, we ran into Matthew at the Fascination parlor a little early. He was hungry as well so we found a food stand and got something to eat. I had a roast-beef sandwich with cheese that had slaw and fries on the side, and a side order of pierogis. I also had my first of about 7 cups of birch beer. I loved that stuff. As we ate, some random square dancing broke out in front of us. I thought we were being flash mobbed, but sadly it wasn’t that awesome. We then headed over to Twister, having lost Joe and Steph. Matthew decided not to ride Twister so Carrie, Matt, Josh and I got in line. We were near the front and ran in to Joe. Josh and I rode in the 2nd seat for my first Twister ride.
Twister–Okay, I loved the split lift hill. Laterals are the name of the game here. Twister had a good first drop and a couple moments of awesome airtime. The helix was really tight and strong. Twister was a great ride, with bunny hops all over the place, but the thing really had great laterals. Josh made sure to squash me as much as possible. Twister was great and everyone said that Phoenix was even better, so this was a good start to coaster riding at Knoebels.
Matthew had run into some others while waiting for us, so off he went. We went over to the famous Flyers. The line was kind of long, but eventually we got on, me in a tub with Matt so that he could see if he could snap us since I’m not really a big flyer fan and can’t seem to snap. The flyers really just make me kind of sick, and we got no snapping going on. We considered the Looper, but I didn’t know if I was up for it, so we went to the Kosmotron instead. The line was rather long because someone ended up barfing before we got on. This was a nice concept; I’ve always liked rides that are indoors with lights and music. But the music selection wasn’t that great.
When we finally got off of Kosmotron we ran into the Uhing family and then Matt Shoebridge came over as well. Matt Scott and I decided to ride the Looper. It was actually a LOT of fun! The looping didn’t make me sick, and once we stopped looping Matt minimized the teetering motion, which kept me from getting nauseous, though Matt didn’t feel well after getting off.
At this point everyone thought it was time to take me to Phoenix. When I went to Holiwood Nights for the first time everyone said Raven was better than Legend, but I thought the opposite. I wondered if it’d be the same with Twister and Phoenix. We got over there and ran into a lot more people we knew at Phoenix. Once in the station, Matt and I were in the front row and because of the great ride ops at this park, we were off in no time.
Phoenix–Oh. My. Goodness. Seriously…Wow. I did not expect that. Buzzbars are always great, but the airtime on this thing felt like it should be illegal! The first pop of air after the great first drop was amazing and scary. By the way, the tunnel to the lift was nice as well. After the next hill you hit all kinds of airtime on the double-up/double-down. Then the ending was all about throwing you up as far as the train could. I loved it! Phoenix had serious airtime on every hill. It was now definitely in the top of my rankings.
Joe went to get another ride and and the Matts both wanted more Phoenix, but Carrie and I headed over to Fandango. This was a great spinning pendulum type ride. The restraints didn’t hurt even if they were tight, and we got some good swings with a very long cycle. I was afraid I’d get sick but, again, I didn’t.
At this point the park was closing to regular guests. Some of the group left to get groceries, but I stayed to eat and ride once the rides started to reopen. We ate pizza and I got to hang with a bunch of people that I’d not seen in a while, and others that I only see a few times every other year or so. I ran into some of the former Ohio kids, who were mostly all Tennessee kids now. Then we got in line for the Haunted Mansion. The Haunted Mansion was a lot of fun. There wasn’t a ‘dead’ spot (no pun intended) in the house anywhere. The scenes are well done and there were a couple of good gags as well. Next up it was back to the Flyers, where I tried and almost succeeded at snapping, but still didn’t quite get it. But at least I didn’t get sick.
After Haunted Mansion we headed over to the haunted train ride next, which had a bit of a line. There were a lot of us planning on riding together, so we waited for an empty train and made our own fun. Joe and I sat in the back 2 seats. Once we were back on solid ground we headed over to 1001 Nachts. It was bright and loud, but not nearly as violent as a well run Rainbow or Magic Carpet ride. It was fun, even if we ended up getting our private ride crashed by a bunch of others.
Downdraft was our next destination, which did make me slightly ill, but was crazy fun none the less. The airtime on Downdraft was amazing! After that we rode the Sky Lift. It reminded me of the sky ride at Lake Compounce in that it GNDN (Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing, and if you get that reference, 100 geek points to you) but up and down the mountain. I needed the Kosmo’s Kurves credit, so Carrie and Joe watched as Matt and I got on. It was fun, but I wish I’d have gotten a ride on High Speed Thrill coaster at least once.
I rode the Satellite, my first time on a Roll O Plane, which was a mistake, though I’m glad Matt held my phone or it would have gotten broke, while Carrie got a private swings ride. After all of that we headed back over to Twister for a night ride. Twister was great, but this time we rode in the back. Unfortunately the queue was full in the station when we came back around, so we didn’t get a re-ride.
At this point I’d ridden most of the major stuff that I wanted to do, and Matt, Joe, and others wanted to spend some time on the flyers, so we headed over there next. Jordan Uhing was going to snap me, but because of the Satellite making me sick, I opted out. Carrie and I headed over to Phoenix instead, and WOW was it running so good. We rode in the 2nd row, in the dark. The tunnel had effects at nite and the whole ride was out of control. We ran into Lisa Broadrick and her friend Rian in the station and got back in line with them.
Once we got off of Phoenix for the last time it was getting close to 10 PM and I wanted to ride the Haunted Cars, so Matt, Mike C., Carrie and I headed to the line. It was a long line, but it was totally worth it. The car ride was a lot of fun. I drove, with Mike in the front seat, Carrie and Matt in the back. They had some fun scares, and this was a great way to spruce up a ride like this, even if just for a short time. By the time we got out PPP had come to an end (they really should extend this to at least 11pm). I said my goodbyes to some people as they headed out, and others headed off to the cottage. I had to get my car, so we walked Carrie out to hers after we listened to Dick Knoebel talk for a bit.
Matt, Carrie and I walked to the parking lot as most were gathered listening to Dick talk. I was parked so far back that I couldn’t even see my car. We hugged Carrie goodbye once we made it to her car and finished driving out to the Fusion.
Once we arrived at the cabin we parked and hit up the ‘after party’. There were quite a few after parties going on, and we had plans to attend some more, but ended up just staying here. We were having too much fun with the bird mask we found and making fun of the terrible little cottage. I guess the price you pay for convenience is that you get a 1950s style ranch that hasn’t been updated since it was built, and is half used for park storage. Never again!
I left on Sunday morning around 9:30 AM. I expected about a 2.5 hour drive that ended up taking all of 3 hours and maybe a little over. Returning the car to Enterprise was a cinch, and before long I was on my way to the main terminal in the shuttle they provide. Once there I printed my boarding passes and headed to security. Thankfully it wasn’t that busy and in about 10 minutes I was thru to find my terminal. Sadly, to get to Terminal F at PHL, you either have to take a shuttle, or walk a long way, in which case you have to be re-screened thru security. I was afraid security would be busy, so I waited in the long shuttle line, and trust me, it was long.
But eventually I made it to the gate in plenty of time. I even had time to get some Chinese food and water since I’d yet to eat breakfast. But around 3:35, which was 5 minutes before we were supposed to board, I realized the plane wasn’t at the gate yet. I thought that was odd, and a few minutes later the lady came over the speaker and said that the plane was not going to arrive now till 2:16 PM which was 6 minutes after we were supposed to take off, and that our arrival at Reagan National was now 3:43 PM. My connecting flight was to leave at 3:55, so that was less than 10 minutes in between flights. Great.
I semi-panicked and went to the desk. Another gentleman and his son were also going to Greensboro, and one guy was going to RDU, so we were trying to figure out what to do. If the gate we landed at was close, we could possibly make it, but if not there was no real chance. The only other flight out of PHL to GSO was at almost 11:00 PM and that would get me back so late after driving home that I would end up being late for work. The only other ‘option’ was for her to put the 3 of us on standby for a 7:50 flight to GSO out of Reagan National if we missed our flight, and that was the only one out of Reagan till the next morning.
Once the plane got there it took forever for them to do their turn around. Apparently there was an issue with the defroster for the wind shield and that caused the delay, and they had to have maintenance come out and fix that at PHL, which took a bit. The flight crew was in a panic too because they all had planes to catch as well. The flight attendant told me that the flight was 23 minutes and that we should just make it and that the gate that I’d be landing at was an area on the tarmac, and that the plane I was connecting to was loading on the tarmac, so I would need to take the shuttle into the terminal, scan my ticket, and get on the next shuttle out. She said that it would be close, but that it was totally doable so I hoped for the best.
Once we touched down at Reagan we all prepared to depart, which took a moment because of a nearby plane that had it’s engine’s on, and we couldn’t go out and get on the shuttle till that was either blocked or moved. As I stood (I had the very front seat and was first in line to get off the plane), a lady from US Airways came up the steps and said that there were 3 people on the plane going to GSO, and that she needed them now. I told her I was one, and the other 2 were in the back of the plane, so she took us off so we could get our luggage, put us on our own shuttle that drove all of about 50 feet, and dropped us off at our other plane, which had an issue with the lavatory and hadn’t boarded yet, thought the shuttle full of passengers was there. Whew! We just made it! The flight home was short and sweet, and once I touched down I got my bag and drove home. Way too much airline drama that weekend for me!
Knoebel’s, as I told Matt, was more like a campground with rides, but it was kind of like a museum of old rides more than an amusement park. It was odd. I didn’t dislike it, but it had an odd layout, and wasn’t like any other park I’d ever been to. The ride ops were great, though, and operations in general were stellar. And then there’s the food. Great pricing, great food. I ate a lot. And drank. And of course, then there was Phoenix and Twister. Both of them were amazing, and I will definitely head back to the park just for those. I’m glad I finally went.
As for the cottages, they could use some real work. Or at least ours could have. Instead of using the garage, a bedroom, the (possible) dining area, and the washroom for storage, they could either provide a car garage or turn it into a rec room. If they renovated it, they could have had a dining room, a nice looking little house, 3 bedrooms, and another large pantry. Sadly, I wouldn’t risk staying in one ever again. Plus there was mold, and it bothered my allergies and sinuses a lot.
As for the event, it’s one of the oddest events I’d ever been to. iIm not sure if I ‘got’ the event. There was a lot of people there (1400 registered), the lines for the rides were just like they were for the rest of the day. Sure, we got food and games, and I’m not complaining, but it was so different than any enthusiast event I’d ever been to. It was definitely more of a social event than a riding event and I still didn’t get to hang with a lot of people I’d wanted to.