Knoebels Grove 2016

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October 8, 2016
Elysburg PA
Phoenix Phall Phunfest

My previous visit to both Knoebels and PPP (also my first) were in 2010. It was a sucky day leading up to getting to the park much later than I’d planned, and it really wasn’t the type of event I thought it was going to be. But I dug Phoenix and Twister, and some of the classic flats, so there was that. I had intended on taking Isaac to PPP in 2015, but then in August I found out after constantly telling my then PCP that I really didn’t think it was bronchitis that part of my lung had indeed collapsed because I had a tumor growing right at the start of the airway leading to the upper lobe of my left lung And even though the first surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled for the Thursday before PPP, I really felt I’d be able to make it.

Isaac wisely decided we should wait a year. So here we were. I needed a Knoebels redemption in the worst way because I was not so impressed on my first visit. And it was mostly not Knoebel’s fault. Because we had just gotten back from an amazing trip from SoCal the weekend before and were both trying to have a smaller budget for this trip, we opted to drive. After work on Friday I drove up to meet Isaac an hour away, parked my car at his friend’s place, and then headed up to Pennsylvania. Several hours (and some hotel/hotwire drama) later we had a room and a few hours of sleep. Then we got up the next morning and headed up to Elysburg.

Arrival was around 9:30 AM, but the park opened at 10, the rides at 11. The covered Bridge Festival, however, had already started. And I saw a sight I didn’t like that was very reminiscent of the last time, non-moving cars trying to get in to the park. And the last time it took me almost 2 hours to go a quarter mile to park. We turned around near the entrance of the car park, then realized they had just stopped so they could move some cones and let everyone in. We realized that because the line of cars that had just grown much larger was now making it’s way in, so we headed across to the opposite road, turned around, and headed in, parked, and walked to the park.

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The covered bridge festival is mostly not my thing. We walked thru the park and headed to the cabin where a lot of my friends were staying. Upon arrival, we were greeted with lots of coaster geeks, some I’d not seen in a couple years. Matt Scott and his crew of Carmen, Kevin, Emily, and Rob lead us to breakfast where we all kind of split up into coaster riders and people not so much riding coasters.

I had already had breakfast, so Rob and I got walking tacos and Mt. Dew. Actually, the four of us guys went back to Isaac’s car to drop off some stuff first, then got the food. And at that point the park was starting to open, so we went over and got our tickets, where we ran into Danny Perkins. Yay Danny!!!! The first ride on our list was a new credit, AND one I was kind of intrigued by. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was looking forward to it.

Flying TurnsOur wait time was maybe 30 minutes. I was in the train with Isaac. Danny, Rob, and Matt were in the train behind us. So, first things first, I really, REALLY liked it. I know it gets way over hyped because of what it is in the enthusiast community. I feel I’m kind of immune to that, because while I wanted to ride it, I had really low expectations, and I’m not a huge fan of the other modern bobsled coasters I’d ridden. But the Turns was far different. The first section was fun, but after that 2nd lift when you’re released into the full course, the ride rips open and though you aren’t going more than about 25 mph, the ride is thrilling, the ride delivers great laterals, and the ride is quite fun.

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Danny decided to meet up with some other friends of his and we met up with Tim Pugh. Since we weren’t far away we headed to another coaster next. I really liked it last time, and Matt said that it was still running the same in the back, but due to recent modifications, many said any other seat was meh. Again, I love laterals, so let’s give it a shot.

TwisterIsaac had ridden Twister II at Elitches earlier this summer and was excited to compare. Honestly, I personally couldn’t tell a difference in the ride from my previous trip. I love the mid lift section, I love the drop, I love the helix. The last run thru the tunnel (it was so great at nite) was a lot of fun, and to me Twister, while not the best coaster ever, is still an amazing ride.

Tim had parked over by the house everyone was staying in, but Lisa texted me and asked that Tim moved the vehicle, so Tim and Rob went over there to do that. We had some really great conversation walking thru the park, and would meet back up in a bit. Isaac, Matt, and I then went back over across the park to another credit for me, which was there the last time, but not quite ready for opening.

Black DiamondAs a coaster, it really isn’t great. As a dark ride, it’s really pretty cool! I didn’t like that they brake you after every drop so you don’t pick up any speed. But the scenes were very good. It was a long ride, and very interesting. And it looks brand new still, even though it was built several years ago, with some of the hardware much older than that.

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After that ride, we went over to one of the best carousels in existence. I learned two things on this carousel ride. One, how to better grab rings (I was terrible the last time). Two, never sit behind Matt Scott, because he’s trying to catch 2 rings at a time, and it messes up your method. There was another coaster across the park we hadn’t ridden yet, and it was also a new to me coaster. It looked fun. And I do like inverting coasters with lap bars only.

ImpulseThe train is very comfortable, and I like the lap restraint. Vertical lifts are weird. They often feel beyond vertical because of the seat position. The drop is really fun going vertical. The ride was smooth, fun, and the inversions weren’t heavy on positive Gs. The slow inversion was really awesome.

When you’re at Knoebels, any time is a good time for food. Matt took us to his favorite burger spot in the park and we had burgers and I had cheesesteak fries. And it was good. So was the birch beer (I really should’ve gotten a large, though). Then we headed to another favorite ride.

The Haunted MansionI’m very disappointed that they changed my favorite room, which was the glowing skeleton room. We did see Bill walk by and I got a hug. But that only barely made up for the loss of my favorite room in the house. Otherwise, the ride is still really fun.

We walked around the back section of the park, part of which I’d never been thru before. We got in line for the motor boats, but there was something going on with the ride ops, and the very small line was not moving, so we bailed. Then we ran into Josh and his crew for a few moments before they headed to Impulse.

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There is another ride everyone simply must do at Knoebels, and that’s the Bumper Cars. By this point, we’d added Ethan to our group. Isaac and I got on one session of mayhem in the bumper car ring, then Matt and Ethan followed in the next session. Knoebels really does have amazingly violent bumper cars. Only the good cars were in use for the day, thankfully. There were quite a few RRCers and various other coaster nerds from PPPast and PPPresent we ran into in line, including Jim and Dave.

We needed to head back to the cabin to charge my phone and take a break. But first we rode the Tea Cups. This was my first ride on these, and for those unaware, these aren’t ‘real’ tea cups. I believe Matt called the ride a Crazy Daisy, and it was a lot of fun if a bit nauseating. After that, I needed some airtime to make me feel better. On the way over to Phoenix, we ran into a gaggle of other enthusiast friends including Lori and the fam, Craig, Mike, Beth, and a few others. I think there was another Danny fly by as well. And Bryan. And Stu. And others. After some conversation, we headed over to ride more.

PhoenixHonestly? Phoenix moved up to my number 3 overall spot on this trip. I hear tell it was even better the nite before, but my gawd, on Saturday Phoenix was killing it. Isaac loved it. And I had to re-rank it. That first drop and pop up to the turnaround is stand up airtime bliss. The middle is, of course, great, and that double up-double down combo…And then the ending. Which is probably the perfect ending on any coaster I’d ever been on. It is actually hard for me not to rank it number 1 overall, but moving to number 3 is a big leap. And I’d get to ride it more and more on this trip!

We went back and hung out at the cabin a bit. We met Brad and his girlfriend Jocelyn. I’d followed Brad online for many years and it was nice to finally meet him. We also hung out with Tim, Rob, Lisa, and even Nicole while having some drinks and spirited discussions. After some Kraken Rum and Coke, and a cider drink of some sort we headed back into the park and over towards the Turns. There was a 3pm meet up for a group picture, then it was over to the Fascination hall for a 4 PM takeover of Fascination in honor of our dear friend Matthew Sullivan (Mamoosh). I’d never played Fascination before. It was fun, but I’m not paying a bunch of money to lose each time, and it looked addicting.

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There were two more Memorial takeovers at Knoebels. One for our friend Martha. She passed away a couple of years ago from a long illness. Martha was a great leather worker. She was a very positive person who I was able to ride Voyage several times with on a few occasions and talk to online. I’ll never forget her talking about Voyage, and saying she couldn’t imagine anything ever being built to top it, and how excited she was.  Another was for Tanya. I only met Tanya briefly at Lake Compounce a few years ago.  She passed suddenly not long ago while training for a marathon. We opted out of the other 2 memorials, but I was thinking about Martha and Tanya and Matthew often that evening.

Several of us then went on the drop ride. I love these drop rides because they drop immediately after you reach the top. No waiting, just dropping. And it’s really a lot of fun.  We went over and got on the sky-lift. I can’t remember if it was here or later that we ran into Rob, Rob, and Rob’s friend. I actually like sky-lifts, even if they really go nowhere like Camden, Lake Compounce, and Knoebels. I took pictures, Isaac and I admired all of the sticky hands that were flung at the supports and looked at the kinda trashy Halloween decorations on the hillside. I’ll give them an E for effort for that.

We had split off from Matt and the group earlier when we went to the cabin but picked up Tim, Rob, Brad, and his girlfriend Jocelyn. After the ride on the sky-lift, they parted ways and Isaac and I went to the Whipper. I love me some Whips. The Knoebels one is fun. We ran into Jonathan Hawkins, who runs Carowinds Connection, and his crew there. Then ended up in line with them again for Kozmo’s Kurves. We rode the coaster twice.

I love that Knoebels is so dog-friendly. There were just so many adorable puppy dogs there, and thankfully most people are bringing them there for attention, which I’m very willing to oblige. Isaac and I next went over to the Cosmotron. We met a very interesting person in line and had a nice conversation with her while waiting. I’m glad Carowinds is getting something similar next year. Then it was time for something I’d been putting off but knew Isaac wanted to do.

FlyersI’d never been able to snap flyers. Like, ever. Not Knoebels. Not Carowinds. None of them. I got on just as a change in the ride ops came, so I figured I’d get a regular ride. After waiting for about 25 minutes and being around mostly people I knew talking, I got in my tub, and surprisingly enough, started snapping with minimal effort. Then when I got in the groove, the ride op throttled the ride and slowed it down. The previous guy was allowing snapping galore. Oh well. At least now I know what it’s like.

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Isaac and I went back to the cabin to pick up some stuff then we headed over to Phoenix for some more nite rides. And every time we rode, it seemed to get better and better and better. Then at 8 o’clock, a bunch of us were heading over to the train to hopefully take over an entire train, which did happen. The line looked really long, but the wait wasn’t that bad, actually. Last time the wait was really long, but they had 3 trains going. I sat in the very back of the train.

Isaac and I went over for Twister night rides next, then after we got off Matt texted me, so we met him at the entrance and rode again. Then we headed back across the park, first checking on the Turns line (slightly too long), then heading to Phoenix. Actually, there were a couple of food and coffee stops in there, and I missed getting some ice cream, but, you know, Knoebels.

We did a couple more rides on Phoenix before Matt, Isaac, and I did the Haunted Car Ride. I’m sad they don’t crawl on top of the car anymore, but the ride is still a lot of fun.  So at that point, the park was starting to close. We got in line for Phoenix once more for last rides. Then Matt headed to the cabin and Isaac and I bought even more food (and birch beer) while Dick Knoebel gave his speech and gave out some prizes. Then we headed over to the cabin for the afterparty.

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It was great hanging out with everyone after the event at the cabin. I got to see mostly everyone with just a few exceptions. We stayed about an hour or so, but since we didn’t yet have a room for the nite, and had decided on the way up to go to Dorney Park on Sunday morning, we headed over to Allentown. I slept quite a bit of the way during the very odd journey over thru the middle of nowhere, PA. Once we got to Allentown, however, we found out that because of a lot of different events that weekend, every hotel and motel in a 30-mile radius was booked. Bummer.

I called a place in Reading who said they’d hold a room for an hour. It took us about 45 minutes, but once we pulled in there were several red flags (Hookers.  It was hookers.), so we decided to go to the Comfort Inn near that instead. It was a little more expensive than I’d have liked, but that’s what you get for not planning ahead on an event weekend.  The room was clean and comfortable for the nite, and we got plenty of rest.

Dorney Park