Dollywood 2006

DW06Banner-2.pngDollywood | Photos | Videos


December 16, 2006
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge TN

The morning came far too early. We’d been joined by 2 more late comers at the cabin in the middle of the nite. I was waiting on everyone else to get ready and around 10:30 AM we started to roll off the mountain. I had told everyone else to be at Dollywood’s front gate that early so that they would be waiting on us to arrive, as then I could pass out tickets for our buffet. We stopped at a gas station to grab a few things and found our way to the park at about 11:00 AM.

After parking we walked towards the front gate when we heard Barron yell at us. We stopped to wait on Barron and Brandon and continued to the gate. After arriving and making our way inside the number for the buffet fluctuated, and I can’t count, so after paying, counting, miscounting, going back, paying for more, and then handing out tickets, I sent the group on their way with instructions for buffet at 4:00 PM. However, I gave my admission ticket out as a food ticket by accident while losing my food ticket. That would be the cause for more confusion later and I just wanted to ride Thunderhead.

We headed up to the Timber Canyon area of the park. They’d not only added a whole new section with one major flat ride, a small tower ride, and kid’s play area, but Mystery Mine, the next year’s new attraction, was almost complete as well and looked great. I love the lumberjack/beaver theme in this area. We walked up to the Thunderhead station and they were running 2 trains. But the weather was beautiful and I assume they were expecting a large crowd. We hopped on the middle. Thunderhead was still running great as usual. We hopped around for another ride before heading back to look at the new section of the park.

Continue reading

Gatlinburg 2006

GPFBanner06-2.pngObër Gatlinburg | Hard Rock Café |Photos | Videos


December 15, 2006
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge TN

It was that time of year again. Time to suit up in my warmest winter attire, pack up the Xterra, and head to Tennessee for a weekend of coaster riding. I took Friday off from work so that I could get a head start and meet up with some friends who were visiting the area during the same time period I was, and since I hadn’t seen them since a new addition to the family I was excited to spend the evening with friends.

I waited till Friday morning to pack as I knew I wouldn’t need much and knew what I was going to take with me. But during packing somehow I hurt my back. After a week of headaches and now a back ache I took some Aspirin that never really kicked in. I left the house around 10 AM. As prepared as I was, the warm winter attire was definitely not needed as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was out in full force. Weather for the weekend was calling for highs of 66° and lows of 50°, but it was at least 70° by this point.

The drive was about 4 hours, with traffic upon arrival to Pigeon Forge not as bad as I’d expected. I had called Daniella and made plans to meet up with her family at an arcade in Gatlinburg but they called and said they were heading somewhere else as the price vs. fun factor wasn’t worth it. After a couple more failed attempts, we decided to hit up Obër Gatlinburg, which I’d never been to. So I told them I’d park by the Hard Rock Café since I had dinner plans there for the evening, and then walk up to meet them.

Continue reading

Dollywood December 2005

05DWoodBanner.jpgDollywood | Photos | Videos


December 17, 2005
Pigeon Forge, TN

I didn’t sleep very much and woke up by the morning sun through the windows around 6 AM, but I laid in bed until about 8 AM as no-one else was awake. Eventually, though, everyone did wake up so I showered and got ready, as did everyone at Beth’s Cabin, and eventually everyone made it into the Element. The park didn’t open until 11 AM according to the website, but I had Ed’s backpack in my car so we went back to Best Western to drop that off so that Ed could pick up Mike B.

We had a lot of time to kill and needed to eat so we decided on breakfast at a sit down restaurant on the Pigeon Forge strip. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it wasn’t as crowded as the parking lot made it seem. We all sat down and ordered. I was in the middle of a conversation when I look around to see the waitress with our food. It wasn’t any longer than about 5 or 6 minutes. That was by far the quickest service I had ever gotten at a sit down restaurant, and the food was good. I ordered the big breakfast  which had 3 ginormous pieces of country ham, three eggs over easy, plus biscuits and gravy. All was good, but even I couldn’t finish my food, nor did anyone else at the table.

Ed called to say that the park had opened and that they were waiting for us so we paid and headed to Dollywood, making our way on the tram to the park gates. We saw Ed, Tina, Mike B., and Nicole standing around waiting. Everyone except Danny had pre-paid their tickets and dinner meal tickets to me. This was the first lesson we learned on the trip, don’t trust me to know what I’m doing. It is actually cheaper for a Season Pass holder to buy tickets, so Nicole got a refund for me to put towards her Season Pass since she wants to come back next year a couple of times. This didn’t take long and she paid for the tickets as I went over to pick up the meal tickets for the group.

Continue reading

Pigeon Forge 2005

PFT000374-01_L2rr_TravelPlannerPlasticBags_color


In 2004 I had the bright idea to go to Dollywood in December for my first visit to the park. Since it was open and they run the coasters in the winter, I wanted to go try out Thunderhead. I wasn’t aware until last year just how close the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area was to where I lived. And Thunderhead was screaming at me to come and ride. So I brought it up to a few people and we planned an informal event on a Saturday in December. Ten of us, and we all had lots of fun. After coming back and talking about it for some time several other friends and acquaintances decided that they would like to come as well if we did it again. Well in 2005 we did it again. With seven more people than the previous year.

So, months of planning went into this weekend.  Of course, I took it upon myself to plan.  And one thing the group (or most of them anyways) learned was not to trust Clint with money.  More importantly, I should say, don’t trust Clint with Math.  Ever.  Ever ever, in fact.  I did a good job with planning the meal, though.  So after literally almost a year of planning, we had a group of 19 going.  Then Josh and Brandi had to back out.  So we were down two people, but since they weren’t going to eat at the buffet and they didn’t have to pay to get in with their season passes it wasn’t hard to adjust.

The week finally arrived.  I was driving from Southern West Virginia to Pigeon Forge by myself.  I was off for the week prior to the trip, so I was able to adjust my sleeping as I was a day sleeper during that time.  So on Friday December 16 I woke up early and headed south.  The drive from home to the Pigeon Forge area is about 4 hours, but all interstate once I reach Bluefield, Va. which is about an hour from home.  Since my Xterra drinks gas like a fish drinks water, not to mention I’m in need of new tires (c’mon income tax refund), I borrowed my parent’s Honda Element for the weekend.  I got my ginger pills, bufferin rip off, XM Radio, and CD case from my car and off I went.  Thank goodness for XM Radio.

I arrived in Sevierville around 1pm.  Beth, who had picked up Kris Allen and Danny Perkins were heading to Louisville to pick up Mike Case and Matt Scott as their flights landed…or so she thought.  Unfortunately, when Matt arrived in Cincinnati, they canceled his flight to KY, so he was on a bus that took far longer than they had anticipated.  I arrived to Pigeon Forge after Tina and Ed  so I met up with Ed as Tina waited at the NASCAR Speed Park for Nicole.  Half of the power was out in Pigeon Forge, and none of the traffic lights worked.  The coaster at NASCAR Speed Park was closed for the weekend as well.

Ed was at Best Western, so we headed towards Gatlinburg, stopping for me to pick up some stuff on the way.  We stopped to look at Hillbilly Golf, which never opened, and then we rode thru Gatlinburg for my first time.  Tina called and she and Nicole decided to meet us back at the parking lot by Hillbilly Golf.  Since we weren’t far away, we drove around downtown Gatlinburg a bit.  While down there, I had seen a Ferris Wheel and a Yo-Yo and something else I couldn’t make out up on a hill.  We drove up a road to see if we could get closer to investigate, and found a park that had to have been closed for quite some time, as everything was needing to be painted, de-rusted, and what not. It was abandoned.  It only had a couple of rides in it, but it looked quaint.  I couldn’t figure out how to turn around, but the gate to the park was open, and that was the only place the road let to turn around, so I turned around by the Yo-Yo and headed back down. I’d never driven thru an amusement park before, and I didn’t really mean to this time.

So we picked up the girls at the parking lot and headed to park in Gatlinburg.  We went to the far end, paid, and left the Element in a covered car park.  Then we headed out into Gatlinburg, as none of us had ever really been there.  We were going to go thru the Ripley’s Haunted House, but I wasn’t paying $14 for it.  That was far too expensive for something I’ve done elsewhere, and while good, it wasn’t amazing.  So we walked more, found a candy shop where I had a wonderful green apple dipped in caramel and chocolate, and then we walked down to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokeys around 4pm.  Mike Bartlett was just arriving in the area and was going to meet us here in a while.  So we paid and went on in.

The Aquarium was wonderful!  I had been thru the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach and loved it, so I knew I would like this one.  It was very similar, but also different; though that could be more because it has been a few years since I had been thru the one at Myrtle.  We wandered around looking at fish and what not until we arrived at the tunnel going under the shark and fish tanks.  We all really enjoyed standing on the moving walkway as sharks, sawfish, eels, turtles and more swam around us.  We liked it so much that we wanted to do it again.

Then I realized something.  Mike may have been trying to call…but you don’t get a signal when you’re under thousands of gallons of water on your cell.  So we went to call him, but actually saw Mike standing on the balcony above us.  We went up to meet him, and got a chance to do the first half of the aquarium all over again, which was fine, as we really kind of wanted to anyhow.  This place really was great.

We spent quite a lot of time at the aquarium, saw some feedings taking place, and petted the stingrays and lots of other stuff.  Then the crew picked up a few things at the gift shop before we headed out.  It was getting dark by this time.  Walking down main street Gatlinburg, someone saw a shop down one of the offshoot alleyways.  I mentioned how we had plenty of time, so we could go and look.  We did.  After coming around to the back of the shops, we walked down by the hotels and what not on the other street.  Then I saw something I had read about and was interested in, Mystery Mansion.  This was a haunted attraction in Gatlinburg that I’ve heard good things about, so since everyone wanted to go, we headed towards the Tiki Torches.  Tina was happy about that…

We arrived to the almost glowing white house to see nobody else around.  The attraction was open, but it was still early, and no one was there but us.  So we paid our way and headed in.  This was by far one of the best haunted houses I’ve done in a while.  This was a rather large attraction.  They have live actors that can not touch you, nor can you touch them.  It was really well done.  And it was an entire building filled up with haunted house offerings.  I was spooked a couple times, after complaining to the actors that they weren’t doing their job by scaring me.  They made up for it after that.

One thing that was fun was standing on one of the balconies that were outside on the front of the ‘mansion’.  Mike B. made the comment that it would be funny if it dropped.  We laughed.  A few minutes later, we were in an ancient Egyptian Tomb themed area, and I went onto another balcony.  And it DID drop.  It also made me scream.  Good job, scared me.  The actors got better.  We were the only ones getting the attention, after all.  Oh, and I have to say that the room with the doors was a nice touch.  As well as the first room, which was very much like a generic version of the first room on Tower of Terror at Disney’s California Adventure?  Well, except that you don’t get Rod Searling talking to you, and you have to find your way ‘behind the fireplace’.

So we walked back to the main street and picked up my car after checking out Ober-Gatlinburg.  We took the girls back to their car after checking on Mike’s, which was by the Aquarium.  We were to meet the rest of our group at the Hard Rock Café at 8pm, but I wanted to get there around 7:30 to make sure they knew we had quite a few coming.  I parked, the girls parked, and the five of us went on in to the Hard Rock to meet Brian, Alicia, and his good friend Brad.

We all got a table and waited.  Beth and company were supposed to be there soon.  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Beth and Co. were not having a good trip.  They did finally arrive at the hard rock around 9:20.  We had eaten by that point and had a very nice time getting to know one another in person.  Hard Rock was standard, but there were far more Mohawks & kilts working there than at other Hard Rock Cafés I’ve been to.

When the BethBus did arrive, we walked down to Wendy’s for them to eat as Hard Rock was getting crowded.  We all sat there for quite a while, and eventually went our separate ways.  Beth had rented a cabin, so Matt, Danny, and I rode in my ride for the weekend up to the cabin.  We got turned around a couple times, but found it.  It was really quaint, even without the Foosball table and the fact that their hot tub didn’t work that nite.  Oh well.  Sleep came fast for me when I eventually made it to my bed.  Would tomorrow cooperate?

Dollywood Summer 2005

Dwood2


My plan for 2005 was to visit a park every month from March to December. Well, plans change.  I did a SoCal trip in March, but had to skip Camden Park in April because I was very busy. Then May came and went and I had to skip Carowinds. Twice. But June lead me to Kennywood, one of my favorite parks, and in July I would be in Johnson City TN for 3 days regardless, so I decided it would be easy to go down a couple days early and hit Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg for some rides and fun. Well, my mother had to be out of town for most of 2 weeks for training on her new job. Couple that with some other obligations early in the week and I had to scale the first part of the trip down to one day of Dollywood. Unfortunately, I had to take 3 days vacation and a holiday, which I could have used later. Oh well…

Since I worked nite shift I usually spent the entire nite awake and slept all day, even on my days off. During the previous weeks I’d had a problem doing this on my days off, which would not have been a problem since I needed to be up during the day Thursday-Sunday. Right, like anything is that easy. So, the Wednesday nite before I was to leave I didn’t sleep because I was up till 3pm the prior day. I kept thinking “I can’t go to Dollywood on no sleep, I need to get to sleep” all nite. But sleep never came. Of course, I got sleepy at 5am, right as I was getting ready to leave.

I got ready regardless and made my way to town for an ATM stop, then in the opposite direction towards Pigeon Forge. The drive was just about 4 hours. It isn’t a hard drive, and certainly not a boring one, but I would have liked to have had company. I arrived at Dollywood at about 11am. It was hot, humid, and extremely crowded. And that was just the parking lot. On top of that I was totally exhausted. I didn’t know how I was going to enjoy anything. I had planned to leave the park around 8 PM when the park closed, but I knew I would leave way before that. I honestly flirted with the idea of sleeping in my car a couple hours before I went in. No deal, Thunderhead was only a short ways away so I paid my money for parking and headed in. Thankfully, they offer tram service.

Continue reading

Kennywood 2005

BANNER

Kennywood | Photos | Videos


June 22, 2005
Pittsburg PA

Kennywood is one of my favorite parks. It has one of my favorite coasters, good food, and was reasonably close to where I lived in West Virginia in 2005. But my only prior visit had been in October of 2003 and only for 3 hours, meaning I only had a chance to ride the coasters once and nothing else. I’d been wanting to get back ever since. Because of West Virginia Day, I would be off for 4 days in a row, so I took the chance to head to Kennywood.

I worked Sunday nite, got home just after 7 AM, and tried to take a nap. My brother and sister had sent their kids to stay with us for the week, which was another bonus reason for me to leave. Since they were coming down here, I went up to where they live to visit.  So I left that evening and headed to my grandmother’s home in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, where I’d lived for quite some time. I arrived around 10 PM, tired and ready to settle in.

The next morning I woke up early, went for breakfast and to visit some friends, then to visit more friends at a restaurant where I used to work, then back for a nap. That evening, among other things, we met up with friends of ours for basketball and tennis. I wanted to sleep till 7 AM the next morning but because my sleeping schedule was out of whack I was up at 6 AM instead, so I decided to go ahead and leave, getting out of town around 7. The trip to Kennywood was around 3 hours. My morning didn’t go so well.  There were some issues with my ATM card and I had only limited cash on me. Then it stormed the entire way to Morgantown. I almost had an accident at an intersection as well.

Continue reading

Six Flags Magic Mountain 2005

six_flags_magic_mountain_logo

  • March 13, 2005
  • Valencia CA
  • West Coast Bash
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Photo Album
Six Flags Magic Mountain 2005

Some time in 2004 some kid on Coasterbuzz sent a private message telling me I wasn’t much of an enthusiast because I had been to neither Cedar Point nor Six Flags Magic Mountain. That, at the time, was untrue as I had in fact been to Cedar Point, but I had let my membership for Cbuzz Club expire, thus I wasn’t able to update my track record from the 51 coasters at that time it had shown I’d ridden. Surprisingly, this was not the first time I had gotten some random email telling me something similar. To the kid that sent me that message, you can sleep better now, because I’ve been to both Six Flags Magic Mountain and Cedar Point. Multiple times.

Like I care.

This is a story about the worst day I’d ever had at an amusement park. This is also the day I had the biggest case of anticipointment I’d ever had. Its not filled with twists and turns, but happens in a rather linear fashion. It wasn’t just because I was at Six Flags Magic Mountain, a notoriously hard park to like, that the cause of my bad day.

Winter Coaster Solace a great event. Great food, fun rides, and lots of friends. This would be my second event. I didn’t want to arrive too late since they were only offering ERT for 2 hours. But we had plans for the evening, so we weren’t going to be at the park until it closing time as we had for most other parks.

Since it was Sunday we were told that traffic wouldn’t be terrible going to Magic Mountain, but we’d need to leave at least an hour before we expected to be there. ACE SoCal and Ride World were holding West Coast Bash from 8-10 AM and I wanted to hit X as much as possible. So at about 7 AM the alarm went off and I called up to Tim Danner’s room to let him know we were up and getting ready to leave in just a few minutes.

Continue reading

Knott’s Berry Farm 2005

knotts_berry_farm_logo

  • March 12, 2005
  • Buena Park CA
  • Knott’s Berry Farm
  • Winter Coaster Solace
  • Photo Album

Knott's Winter Solace 2005

Today I would attend my first ever theme park event. Knott’s Winter Coaster Solace 2005 begat at 7 AM with 3 hours of Exclusive Ride Time (ERT), a full 3 hours before the park opened to the public. During this time a substantial amount of coasters and a few thrill rides were running.

I had wanted to arrive at the park around 7 or 8 but after our concert the nite before, neither Jamaal nor myself was able nor willing to walk up so early. Plus, Tim had fallen ill at the Pre-Solace Radisson event, so he was okay with a later arrival. Eventually, we made it to the park around 9am. The first thing we needed to do was get registered for the event. Apparently, Robb and Elissa Alvey (of Theme Park Review fame) snagged the last lanyards for the event, so no lanyard for us.

Tim ended up paying for our registration fees with his credit card so that we could hand over some cash, which he didn’t have. This proved to be useful for us because Tim had a Cedar Fair season pass as he worked at Dorney Park, which meant that we were able to purchase our registration packets at a reduced rate. Because of our steep discount, Tim was covered for gas for the weekend, as he had planned to ride with us to the weekend’s events.

Continue reading

Las Vegas & Maroon V Honda Civid Tour 2005

2013 Honda Civic Tour Presents Headliner Maroon 5


Las Vegas 2005

Waking up Friday morning, Jamaal and I got ready with plans to head over to Stratosphere with the gang to see if we could get a ride on Insanity since it was closed the night before. We’d had the breakfast buffet at our hotel the day before, but no such luck today. We rode over by Stratosphere but, after talking to Bill, decided we weren’t going to wait till the rides opened later in the day as we had plans to go to a concert that evening in Hollywood, so we left Las Vegas.

I wanted to get a picture of the billboards on the way back that said, “What happens in Vegas” & “Dosen’t get past this billboard” but we went by too quickly.

Speed was fun for the 2 rides, the food we had was great, Manhattan Express wasn’t the worst, and High Roller Sucked. The other rides (that were running) on the Strat were fun even if we didn’t get to ride Insanity.  And Star Trek: The Experience was awesome.

But now it was time for coaster credit #106. We headed towards Prime, which is about 40 minutes outside of Vegas, on the NV/CA border.Buffalo Bills was interesting.The casino was nicely themed, and the Log ride looked like fun but we only got tickets for Desperado, even passing up what would be our 3rd S&S tower.

DesperadoIt could be slightly rough, yes. But the trains were prettier than those on Magnum. The station is inside by the casino. Jamaal and I were in front seat with two other guys in the very back. We waited for a few minutes and then were dispatched. You go down a dip and then start up the lift that takes you outside. The first drop was great, just a bit rough at the bottom, but still fun. The subsequent bunny hops were filled with airtime, and both of us liked the ride, which circles the outside of the casino. I’d rate it above average. Another hypercoaster in the books. Another former record breaker ridden.

We were already 40 minutes past Vegas and our drive back from here wasn’t bad. Eventually we stopped at a gas station in a little settlement in the middle of the desert where we had stopped on the way to Vegas. I don’t think the temps ever got below 80 the couple days we were there.

Though I may have wanted to do more sightseeing, once we arrived in Hollywood it was already around 4pm, with a concert at 8:15. After parking at the bottom of the hill we rode the tram up to CityWalk. We had dinner at Panda Express and did some shopping. It was getting much cooler than Las Vegas had been. We really didn’t have a lot of time before getting in line for the concert.

Las Vegas 2005

Universal Amphitheater was a nice venue. We made it to our seats, which were a welcome to my tired legs. We still didn’t know who the opening act was, then someone told us-Phantom Planet, the guys that sangthe theme song for ‘The OC’. Plus we found out this was the opening nite of the tour.

Phantom Planet was great. They had a fairly long. It’s always refreshing to hear a good *Live* band. During intermission we went for a potty break, and I spotted someone I walked by that looked familiar. I knew I recognized this person. At the top of the stairs, I mentioned it to Jamaal, and coming back down the stairs, he was like “oh my, it is him”, our first celeb sighting…Ian Ziering from 90210. We had better seats than he did.

The lights went down and Maroon 5 came out to screaming fans. They did the songs off of their album and some new songs as well. Another refreshingly good live band. The lights went down and stayed until the encore. Then they went into my favorite Maroon V song, and I knew the end was near. I really love She will be Loved, and the audience went wild for that one as well.

After that, Adam Levine mentioned that the drummer had been off the tour due to injury and they had a back up drummer. But since it was L.A. and this was their hometown, Adam took the drums as the Drummer came out to play guitar and sing 2 songs. Their rendition of “Seven Nation Army” by White Strips, and then “Highway to Hell”, which just happens to be a song about being on tour.

They would be performing in Morgantown a few weeks later, but I wouldn’t be able to go. One interesting tidbit: The lead singer from Phantom Planet actually sat with his girl friend and family right behind us for the entirety of Maroon 5’s set. Great nite. Then it was a late arrival at Days Inn in Buena Park. We met up with Tim Danner who was also staying there that nite for a few minutes before bed. 

Some years later, after meeting a friend’s wife, we found out that we were both at the same Maroon V concert, her in the pit just in front of us. Disney was right, it really is a small world. Jamaal and I were tired, and we had to get up early for Exclusive Ride Time at Knott’s Winter Coaster Solace the next morning, so we headed to bed.

Winter Coaster Solace 2005

Las Vegas 2005

Las Vegas Part 2 2005

Las-Vegas-Logo


Las Vegas 2005

On Thursday we had plans to do several different attractions around Las Vegas. We met up with the gang, which were now joined by Tina and Bill, who had arrived this morning from Los Angeles, as well as Rob, our Las Vegas native, for an all day pass on Speed. We only took 2 spins, which was still cheaper than one ride on Manhattan Express.

Speed The Ride-You have to travel thru the Nascar Café to get there, but once you’re in the station very little NASCAR is actually seen. The launch into the over banked left hand turn was great. Then it goes into a loop, thru more LIMs, another turn to the left, and up a large spike. The kickback at the highest point was great. Then you do it all again with a deceleration at the LIMs instead of a kicker launch. I really liked Speed, and after it was all done, we rode it again. This time I sat with Jeff in the front seat. Even with the OTSRs, this was nothing like Joker’s Jinx with ‘em. This was a better start to coasting in Vegas!

Apparently we were a few drinks behind everyone else with those 99¢ margaritas, but Jamaal and I decided to play it sober for now. The gang re-grouped and headed down the street towards the Adventuredome indoor theme park at Circus Circus. Circus Circus is an older property, and it shows. I was going to book two nights for us there, but I’m glad I didn’t. Actually, the inside didn’t look as bad, and I hear their steak restaurant is one of the best in vegas. But we were there for one reason and one reason only: Canyon Blaster.

We made our way through the casino and around to Adventuredome. The first ride we saw was their newly installed Chance Slingshot Tower. I had rode one in Myrtle Beach and loved it, but I was only willing to part with enough cash for the main coaster here. We walked around Adventuredome, which is very pink. Adventuredome is an indoor amusement park with a huge faux mountain in the middle and several rides, mostly Chance Rides, scattered about. I would like to spent a few hours there at some point in the future. Eventually we all got to a ticket booth and went to the coaster station. 

Adventuredome 2005

Canyon BlasterThis was one of the smoother Arrow loopers I’d ever ridden. I think that being indoors helps, not being subject to the elements, with less of a chance of rust or fading paint, all of which could affect the ride. Everything in the Adventuredome was very clean and well kept. This was the first time I’d been on an Arrow coaster with their later rolling stock. It was very comfy, even if they didn’t look very Arrow-esq. The ride wasn’t very different from any other Arrow loops-crew. You have a first drop into loops and a turn into corkscrews, then a helix before you’re done.

The other kiddie credit was not open and I wasn’t in the mood for any flat rides so we wandered around while some of the crew played DDR, and eventually left. Some of them still had to get that Manhattan Express credit but since Jamaal, Jeff and Myself had it we went to do the other geeky thing I’m into-Star Trek.

For years I’d wanted to go to Vegas just to visit Star Trek: The Experience  I mean, this was Star Trek Mecca! At the time, while I still enjoyed Trek, I wasn’t quite as huge a fan. This was something I wasn’t going to leave Vegas without doing. We made our way to the Hilton, passed thru the ‘futuristic’ themed casino (which just happens to have one of Travel Channel’s “World’s Best Bathrooms”, and yes we visited), and then I saw it. 

Voyager, the Enterprise, a Klingon Bird of Prey. I was super excited. So we bought our all day passes to both ‘Klingon Encounter’ & ‘BORG Invasion 4D’ and headed thru the ‘History of the Future’ museum. I filmed the whole thing. I even got to talk very briefly with a severely tall Klingon. Eventually, we made it to the queue of ‘Klingon Encounters’, the original attraction. The wait wasn’t very long.

Star Trek The Experience 2005

Klingon Encounter-I didn’t know the storyline until I got there. You’re met by an attraction host and the intro has you lined up ready to head into the attraction. But something goes wrong and you’re transported onto the Enterprise D. The transporter effect was brilliant. You’re rushed to the bridge of the Enterprise for a briefing, where you find out that someone in the group is an ancestor of someone important in the future, and a rogue Klingon has went back in time to change the future. The next major scene is in a turbo lift where, again, they use special effects that were very well done. Finally you’re taken to a shuttle craft where the simulator part of the attraction begins. I’m not a huge motion sim fan, but this was the best one I’d been on. As you exit, there was a newscast playing on the screens that gave an ‘update’ about a UFO landing in Vegas.

You exit thru retail shops and Quark’s bar on the Promenade. Then it was back around to do BORG Invasion. Back thru the museum and into the other queue. This time the wait was even less. We were all eventually led into the first room for our pre-show and briefing.

BORG Invasion 4D-This one was even better. The pre-show features the Doctor from Voyager telling you why you are there. This time you are on a space station. Then something happens, and the station is under attack from the BORG. As you’re moved through the space station, the BORG start to attack the ‘staff’ of the space station, assimilating them. This was more like a walk through haunted house style of attraction. At the end of it all ended up in a large theater that used practical effects to make it feel as if you’re in a different kind of vessel, with 3D and practical effects putting you in the action. Because I used to wear glasses, the 3D glasses on most attractions didn’t work well for me. These worked like a charm. I really enjoyed it.

Star Trek The Experience 2005

Afterwards we were back on the Promenade, where I picked up some stuff. Then we decided to have a drink at Quark’s Bar. I had a Warp Core Breach. It was quite large and Jeff had to help me finish it after he drank his Mind Meld. We called the group and met up eventually at the Bellagio after riding the Monorail from the Hilton to Bally’s. They had been watching the fountains for quite some time now. We stayed and watched a full run of the fountains as well before heading off to Fremont St.

Bill and Tina went ahead to the Stratosphere and the six of us went to see the Fremont Street Experience. After getting to Fremont St. we went into the Mermaids Casino to get some food (deep fried Oreos, yum!) and cheap mixed drinks. Fremont St. is the original strip in Las Vegas. Binion’s Horseshoe, the Golden Nugget, that famous neon Cowboy and Cowgirl. All are found on Fremont St. It is also home to the Fremont Street Experience, with Viva Vision as the centerpiece, a large LED canopy.

The Fremont St. Experience was the world’s largest television. It’s actually a large canopy over Fremont St. that stretches from one end to the other, over 5 football fields long. Viva Vision is the series of shows between 6 and 9 minutes long that are shown at the top of every hour. Once a busy street in Downtown Las Vegas, most of the area is closed to vehicles now and is a shopping, eating, and gambling venue. I found it to be very clean and entertaining, with live music and a fun atmosphere.

At the top of the hour, however, Fremont St. gets very different. The things that Vegas is most known for, the Neon lights on the casinos, all go off at once, as the large overhead screen comes on. We were about to witness ‘The Drop’, a psychedelic underwater techno music show. Jamaal took video of the 8 minute show. There are a few different shows.

After that Jamaal and I headed to the Stratosphere Tower, as did Dawn who was dropping off Kristin and Jeff. We all eventually met up with Tina and Bill at the top. The nite could have been a lot different…

Las Vegas 2005

Once we get to the top we find that Insanity, the new ride at the top of the tower, was closed. The person selling tickets had told us that the ride was open and operating. This was, after all, opening nite. Tina and Bill almost made it on before it closed down. What do you do when you have a building over a 1000 feet tall standing in the desert where the wind is always blowing and you’re looking for a new thrill ride? Build Insanity, of course, which can’t operate in winds over 25 mph. Insanity never ran again that nite, and we stayed till closing. Oh well, at least it wasn’t a total loss. There were three other rides at the top of the tower.

So instead of riding Insanity we boarded their other new ride, a see-saw with an attitude: Xscream.

Xscream-Scariest. Flat-ride. Ever. Hands down! We got on close to the back. I didn’t have my glasses on, but could still see well enough. The platform you stand on lowers, and you’re sitting there being held in by a lap bar dangling 900 feet in the air. Did I ever mention I’m afraid of heights? Whew. Very scary. They run a few programs on the ride, all equally as bad. I swore I’d never ride again, but I ended up riding 2 more times after this (screaming like a girl the whole time) and even once in the front row.

After Xscream we headed farther up the tower for another coaster credit.

High RollerThis had the worst ops I’d ever seen in my life. They tried to fill the train and since the top of the tower wasn’t busy, we waited. And waited. And waited. Then they realize that the guy sitting in the front seat of the coaster was too big to ride the coaster. So they all look at him, then they go inside to discuss it. For about five minutes. Then they come back and tell him he can’t ride. Then they wait till a few more people arrive. Quite a while later. I know we sat in that car a good twenty minutes before the ops finally decided to send the train around. It goes around the circuit twice, but one would have been enough. Not very fun, actually rather boring. And it was rough.

Jeff and Kristin finally made it to the top and we all rode Big Shot. 

Big Shot-Even sans glasses (darn me for forgetting my strap), I could see a lot of the city. Big Shot was more fun than scary, especially now that I realize that I like S&S towers much better than Intamin as you’re not held at the top before dropping. A couple good bounces, and air at the top made this a really fun ride. 

More rides on both Xscream and Big Shot followed. We had a last ride on Big Shot before the tower closed for the evening. Then we all parted ways for the nite. The plan was for Jamaal and I to go to ‘Ra’, a club at the Luxor but it was too late and I was too tired. So I went back to the room to sleep as Jamaal ventured out to wander around and shop. We got up fairly early the next morning to leave.

Hollywood & Maroon 5

Las Vegas 2005