SoCal 2016 Day 1

16SoCal1Banner.jpgWeHo | Photos | Videos


September 24, 2016
Los Angeles, CA

The last time I was in southern California was December of 2012. I was on a week’s vacation to Las Vegas and when planning the trip decided to drive out for a day to spend the morning at Knott’s Berry Farm theme park and the afternoon at Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park. Previously I’d spent time at both parks in 2005 on my first west coast SoCal trip. This trip was initially planned for spring of 2016, but because of my onset of medical problems it got pushed back to September instead. Which is fine as this was a great time to go.

We flew out Saturday morning from Greenville, SC’s small airport. I like smaller airports because it’s just easier to park, get thru security, get a bite to eat, and relax before the flight. Plus it was cheaper and Southwest is way better than I felt it used to be. Our flight was around 10:30 with a 2 hour layover at ATL.

Getting to LAX and out to our rental car agency was pretty easy, and the trip to the rental car agency wasn’t nearly as long as when I’d done this 11 years ago as it seemed like Enterprise was a good 30 minutes away from the airport, if I recall correctly. We ended up in a cute VW Bug. Which excited me…until we started driving it. It had great gas mileage, but that was about it. I didn’t like how there were not accommodating handles on the door for when you were trying to open or shut it, and you couldn’t lay the seats back. It’s just not for me. This is actually the first time I’d ever driven a VW Bug. And I really didn’t like it. Neither did Isaac.

Continue reading

Carowinds Spring 2016

Carowinds-Logo


Untitled

Spring had sprung. The air smelled sweet. And in the southeast U.S., that can only mean one thing…Seasonal Parks had started to open! I have to say, shutting down Carowinds in 2015 year was very bitter sweet. It was the weekend before I was going in for major surgery to have part of my lung removed, and there was a chance that I may not make it thru that alive, so the impact of the park closing, and my impromptu visit on a Saturday to get what could have been my final rides ever on Fury was not lost on me. But here I was, spring 2016, and I’m alive and still kicking.

I’d really wanted to go to Dollywood because Lightning Rod looked so amazing. My friend Isaac and I planned to go opening weekend, but the ride was not quite ready, so we decided to delay our trip until it was up and running consistently. We had also planned on going to Season Passholder Preview night for Carowinds since we both had platinum passes, and it was the Thursday night before Good Friday, which I had off with pay, so why not make a weekend out of it?

I was really getting excited to get back on Fury. Seriously, one year later, and the ride was still so amazing. And to think it was just a 45 minute jaunt from my house! We planned for Isaac to meet me at work since it was on his way to Carowinds and we’d leave from there at 4, which would give us plenty of time to get to Carowinds…under normal circumstances. We avoided getting on I77 because it’s always busy, but it took us over 2 hours to go 40 miles. We went thru uptown Charlotte. We hit back roads We did everything to avoid traffic and yet we always seemed to find it.

Untitled

The park was open from 5 PM to 10 PM. We were hungry when we arrived and I was a little grouchy. After getting in the park we walked over to Fury to see what the line was like. It wasn’t a terribly long line, but longer than we wanted to wait before eating, so we went back to Harmony Hall. They’d made some changes in there by moving the Coke Freestyle machines, and made a weird ‘bar’ blockade that looked very hacked together . The food was as good as it had been since the new eatery opened. I recommend the brisket.

They were having major opening nite issues with the registers, though, and we were in line to pay for quite a while. After we ate we headed over towards Fury for a night ride. It’s just so amazing. The ride has airtime, sideways airtime, and a great first drop. I can’t gush about it enough, really. And at nite its even better. We headed back over to Intimidator and rode that next. It was running well, as usual. I think Intimidator and Fury compliment each other very nicely.

Friday morning we woke up later than we’d intended to head to Virginia for the weekend to ride coasters at Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens.

Untitled

The following weekend Rob Willi, whom I’d talked to for years on AIM, and who is a frequent CoasterBuzzer was coming thru with his kids, and I told him I’d meet up and help him with the little ones while he rode the coasters. We were only there for a couple of hours at nite so that he and his oldest son could get a few rides while the younger 2 could ride some kiddy rides as well. The younger ones hung with me and we had a blast once I got over my fear of them doing something to hurt themselves.

Sunday Isaac and I went back to Carowinds for a few hours. It was a very light crowd. We rode Fury and Intimidator a few times. We hopped on Afterburn, and I finally got a chance to check out Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare-The queue and building looked great. I wish they’d do *something* with the unused side, but the side that was in use was great. It looked fantastic, and the games were fun. Unfortunately my gun wasn’t working, and I hoped to go back soon to play with a better gun.

Untitled

The third open weekend for the park I headed back down on Sunday again as Rob Willi and our friends Kyle, Lisa, Nicole, and others were heading to the park from Dollywood’s now cancelled event. This was during the Taste of the Carolinas event. It was great hanging out and riding the rides. We got on Fury a few times, Intimidator, Afterburn. But this time I actually focused on eating. First, I had a great sundae at Ritas. But since I missed the Taste of the Carolinas last year, I wanted to do it this year.

The prices were really good and the food was good. I had 2 of the Asheville Goat Cheese popovers, I tried the tomato pie, a Son of a Peach beer, chocolate bourbon pie, a spring roll, and more. I ended up going back to the Taste of the Carolinas with Isaac to get some more food and some more rides in at a later date, then on Friday evening before Mother’s Day, I met him and another friend for a couple hours on Friday, which tend to be very slow evenints at the park.

I was able to go back and enjoy the water park and, man, it’s really great with room to grow.  The new slides and entrance were nice, and I can’t wait till its all grown in. I really think Carowinds is turning into something special and amazing. The new Starbucks at the front looks great. I hope other buildings follow suit and change to a more Carolinian Feel.

Untitled

 

Kings Island 2016

KI-Logo-Hero


Kings Island 2016

Sunday morning was gloomy, with rain and clouds. I checked the forecast, realized that the rain that was being called for in Cincy was likely to come and stay for a bit, then drifted off back to sleep as Isaac went down for breakfast, a shower, and a bunch of other stuff before I finally woke up to discuss what we were going to do. The original plan was go to Kings Island and stay in the Cincy area and then do Coney Island and Strickers Grove on Monday before coming home. But this weather was not cooperating.

I don’t really remember what time I finally woke up, but it was still morning. We got ready, I headed down and did the breakfast thing as well, we checked out, and after having discussed options, we headed to Kings Island after all. I figured that a light rain would keep people away and as long as there was no thunder storms, which weren’t on the forecast until maybe one around 1pm, or 4pm, or 6pm we should be fine for a couple of hours.

We did stop at a Kmart that just happened to be going out of business because although both of us had considered bringing a hoody, neither of us did. Thank goodness for 60% off at the closing Kmart. I even got a decent pair of new work shoes for cheap. Score!

Kings Island 2016

We arrived at Kings Island around 1 PM. Isaac had forgot to bring his Platinum Pass, so we headed to guest services, then to the nearly empty season pass office for him to get a pass for the day. The parking lot was not far from empty, the clouds and a light rain would come in and out for most of the day. We headed in to the park hoping for a light attendance day.

Hungry for lunch, we ate at Skyline Chili on Main Street. It was my first time. Meh. I don’t get it. My Icee was good, though! Our first ride of the day? Banshee!

BansheeI hadn’t seen it run, but finally we saw a train on the course as we headed over. Would it live up to the hype? We got in line for the front with only a 3 train wait and they were running, and stacking, all three. I figure they planned on a busy day, but for the rain. I love the new trains. The restraints are great. That lift is steep and fast. And that drop! Inversion! Loop! Zero G! Inversions! Sloooowwwww Inversion! Snappy snap up to the brakes! Oh! My! Gawsh! I loved it! Banshee is a winner from drop to brakes, and my new favorite inverted coaster. The lack of midcourse brakes really made a difference, and even though I could ride it all day, it was intense, but not draining. We ran around and got a back seat ride. Another thing I like about the new trains is that if you’re on the outside seat, you have a barely obstructed view. And, surprisingly, the best seat on Banshee was not the front as is the case for most inverts, but the back! We rode once more later in the day in the front, but several more in the back. I loved it. The slowdown in the back during elements was great. Amazing. Fantastic. Five Stars!

Kings Island 2016

Whew. So we walked over and saw that Invertigo was closed. I figured it would be down all day, actually. Isaac ran out to the car to change shoes and I sat near the entrance. Next  we went back and rode Diamondback. I love Diamondback. We rode in the front of the train and, as usual, it was a great ride. However, as we were on the brake run we were informed by the people behind us that Isaac’s keys had come unclipped from his shorts and went flying. This was a bit of a problem as he’d just got a new car, and his other key was back in NC…

We rode the ride again to see if we could see the keys around the 2nd hill which was where we we’re told they came out. Then we walked over and looked, then rode the train under the ride to look. While we didn’t see his keys, what I did see was clearing out for the new ride for 2017. We spent most of the rest of the train ride seeing what our options for getting a key were on a holiday weekend in Ohio. Unfortunately, and I’ll keep the boring parts short, everything was a dead end until Tuesday when every dealer’s parts department opened back up. Bummer. Isaac did what he could to report it and all, but they never found his keys. It was a damper for sure, but we went on about our day for the time being as we weren’t going to be able to leave the park anyway.

With no leads on getting a new key we went to back to the Beast. I always get lost going to the entrance the first time on every single visit. The ride was running well, but the trims were hitting pretty hard. What I love about Beast is the speed thru the woods and the out of control feeling. We rode in the front. Not the best Beast ride ever, but not a bad ride at all.

Kings Island 2016

I think we rode Diamondback again after that, and then headed back up for more Banshee rides. We also hit up Delirium which seemed to have been running a very short cycle, but it was still great. We got more Banshee rides in as well. Then we went to The Bat. It looked much better with the new paint and name, and the logo was much better. The ride was still the same. Fun, but nothing amazing.

For the 2016 season Carowinds had debuted Cirque Imagine. I’d yet to catch the show at Carowinds but I knew it came from Kings Island, and this year they’d debuted Cirque Origin. I wanted to see it while we were here so we went to the 5 PM showing. It was a really good show. It was the perfect non-corny show for a large regional theme park. I was even more excited to see the show at Carowinds.

After the show we rode one side of Racer. It was running okay. We came back to the other side later, but not before heading to Flight of Fear and some other rides first. I have to say, after having been to Kings Dominion earlier in the year and riding both Flight of Fear & Stunt Track there, Kings Island keeps both in much better condition with most, if not all of the effects in working order. Also, Kings Dominion turned most of Flight of Fear’s queue into a haunt space, which is fine, but now it looks terrible, dusty, and old in the ride’s indoor queue and station. Kings Islands looked very nice.

Kings Island 2016

Flight of Fear was running well. Sadly the MCBR was on full force. Last time I’d ridden it it was not. But still, the ride was a lot of fun. We were going to ride Firehawk, but the line was too long, so we skipped it.

I think this was when we hit up Stunt Track. It’s a fun coaster, but I kind of wish, because of the placement of it in Kings Island, that they’d removed the theming and re-theme it. Nothing spectacular, just remove all of those shipping containers and add in some rock work and landscaping maybe. It was still a fun family coaster. Its just that its so out of place now that the parks aren’t movie themed parks.

Next up was Vortex. I’d not ridden it in a few years, but was hopeful, as Anaconda was running really, really well earlier in the year. Vortex, though, was painful. Maybe new trains with better restraints would be a nice fit, but neither Isaac nor myself enjoyed the ride. Up next was Windseeker. After that, we sat around and rested for a bit. I didn’t realize the pad for Flight Commander was still there. I wish they had that ride still, but I understand why it is gone.

Kings Island 2016

Evening was setting in. I think this was around the time we hit Racer’s other side before more Diamondback rides, where Isaac had been instructed to see if they’d found his keys during the 5 PM walk of the track. They didn’t, and we weren’t counting on it. At this point, it was starting to get dark so we headed over to The Beast for a really great night ride. I love the ride but, MAN! Those night rides are not to be missed!

I think we may have ridden Diamondback once more but I don’t remember. I do know we went and caught nite rides on Banshee, and that was as amazing as expected. Every ride, it cemented Banshee’s position as my new favorite invert, and a high place in my personal ranking.

We headed back up front and spoke to Lost and Found and Guest Services again. Previously, a girl at guest services said that they didn’t offer any services to break in to locked cars, but when we went back the first thing we were told was that security could break right in. It took a few attempts, but the girl in security did a great job and we got in the car to get our stuff.

We packed up and went to the pickup area to Uber over to the Marriott down the way from Kings Island. We woke up and had breakfast the next morning, then Ubered to the airport for Isaac to rent a car so that we could head home and he could pick up his extra car key, drive back to Ohio, get a few more rides in since, hey, his car was already at Kings Island, and then drive home.

We didn’t make it to Strickers or Coney, but I’ll get there one day.

Kings Island 2016

Holiday World 2016

holidayworldlogo

  • July 2, 2016
  • Santa Clause IN
  • Holiday World & Splashin Safari
  • Photo Album

Untitled

One great thing about heading to Holiday World from Kentucky Kingdom is that there is a time zone difference that works in your favor during the summer. Still decked out in our waterpark clothes, and with the time change, it technically only took us about 15 minutes to get to Holiday World (after just over an hours drive)…but we got there as it was starting to sprinkle. We didn’t know if or how that would affect the water park or the rides. We pulled into the parking lot across the street and headed over to the park. The ticket booths were all closed so we had to go to customer service to get our tickets, and off we went to Splashin’ Safari.

After getting a locker we headed over to Mammoth. Both of us got in the single rider line and stood there for a bit. Now, I realize single rider lines may or may not be a way to a shorter wait…but the girl working the lines was sending plenty of rafts out with only a few people in and they weren’t large people, so you know they were way under the weight limit. The single rider line didn’t move for quite a while, but finally a guy came and took over and took full advantage of the single rider line. Granted, our total wait time was maybe 25 minutes, but the the guy was better at filling up rafts while utilizing the single rider line as its intended. Isaac and I got on back to back rafts with different groups, thankfully both of us getting fun families.

Mammoth-The water is not heated. And it was cold. But Mammoth was an amazing ride! Lots of airtime and aggression. I got slapped in the face a few times with water that I wasn’t expecting, and the ending drenched us all, but it was so worth it because the ride was so great.

Untitled

Next up we headed to Wildebeest and because the wait was so short we got in the regular line. I’d ridden this in it’s first year during Holiwood Night’s Exclusive Ride Time and it was loads of fun.

Then we got in line for the Funnel but the line was soooo…long and the ops didn’t seem to be pushing it thru, so we went over and did the slide racers instead, while hitting up Bahari’s warm water for a bit and then Zambezi Zinger. After that we were done with the water park, so we changed clothes and headed to the dry side of the park.

Once we were dry and ready to ride I took Isaac on his inaugural Voyage ride. We rode in the front seat of the last car. Voyage was still amazing. Yes, they slow you down on the MCBR. Too much if you ask me, and, yes, the triple down is no longer what it used to be. But the ride is still killer. And mayhaps they’ll figure out a way to turn down or turn off the MCBR one day.

I was hungry, so we stopped at the Plymouth Cafe. Isaac has some dietary restrictions and didn’t really seem to be in to anything they had there, so I got a ‘feast’ and sat to eat. This is where I must complain a bit.

Untitled

This was my first time at Holiday World without it being an event. Honestly, for the most part, operations were slow. People can complain all they want about Six Flags parks, but this was as slow as what those parks are typically known for. And it wasn’t just a one off thing, it was pretty much the entire park. Yes, the park was clean. Yes, the park was nice and fun. But operations were much to be desired. And I will say that many people that I texted confirmed that on any non-event visits it has been the same for them. Bummer.

And another reason for my ranting, with my turkey, which was quite good, I got a gigantic piece of just slimy skin underneath all of the meat. I could and should have taken it back, and I’m sure there wouldn’t have been an issue, but Isaac was hungry and we wanted to ride Thunderbird, so all the way up to Thunderbird we went, which had about a 40 minute wait.

ThunderbirdI wasn’t expecting a whole lot. I like wing coasters, and this is my fourth. We lucked out and got put in the front seat on the right side. The launch was more forceful than I had imagined it to be, and every element was great from the first inversion to the slow roll, the loop, Zero G roll, everything. And the station and queue were very well done and classy. I loved it.

Untitled

Isaac stopped to get BBQ that smelled really good. But there was a patron in line that caused, or should I say allowed, a very uncomfortable and unfortunate incident to happen, so Isaac decided to get out of line and we headed up to get something at Kringle’s instead.

Next up was a front and back row ride on Raven. I love that coaster and usually end up marathoning it at the end of the night during HWN because it usually has no line and I like sitting in the front in the dark. It was running really well, with great airtime, and when it kicked in to high gear after hill 5, especially in the front, it just takes off until the brakes. I love it.

Afterwards we headed over the Legend to try it out since it’s changes. You can see all of the new wood. I wish I’d taken more pictures. I’d always preferred Legend to Raven, which isn’t saying much since they’re both amazing roller coasters. We rode in the back first. The ride was out of control and as good as my best rides on it. There was more airtime and the differences in the ending are noticeable. I really liked it, as did Isaac, so we went back around and rode in the front. That new ending, with helices and everything was just nuts.

Untitled

Heading back we were going to go ride Thunderbird then end the night on Voyage, however I suggested Voyage first for a night run, and maybe a possible stop on the way back out of the park. Our night ride on Voyage near the front was great for me. Unfortunately, Isaac got a kidney punch from the divider in the middle of the ride.

We went back up to Thunderbird, but near the entrance we were told it was closed early for fireworks, so instead we headed back towards the gate as Voyage was closing then too.

We didn’t stay for fireworks because we had to get back to Louisville, plus I had to Hotwire a room. That hour of time we gained? Yeah, it kinda sucked losing that. We had a really great day at two good parks, both of which really need to some work on their operations. I wouldn’t mind living in a part of the country that was close to Voyage, Legend, Raven, Storm Chaser, Lightning Run, and Thunder Run. All VERY amazing rides to be close to. And we still had another day on our trip allotted to Kings Island, but would the weather cooperate?

Kings Island

Untitled

 

Kentucky Kingdom 2016

Kentucky-Kingdom-Logo-Highrez

July 2, 2016
Louisville KY | Kentucky Kingdom | Photo Album


Untitled

It really had been a great coaster season for me in 2016. Not only that, but my friend Isaac also likes waterparks so we did hit up Carolina Harbor one Sunday after it opened, and it was great. Then the following weekend, the two of us went to Wet & Wild Emerald Pointe with my friend Stefan for my first time, and it was fun as well. After Memorial Day weekend excursions to Ohio and Pennsylvania it was time for another trip.

Though already planned, after the couple weeks I’d had I needed to get away really bad. Having recently just been in an accident in which my car was totaled (not my fault) and then fighting with the insurance company, I needed to get far, far away.

My friend Isaac and I had planned to hit up Kentucky Kingdom, Holiday World, Kings Island, and Stricker’s Grove for July 4 weekend. There were talks of changes because of everything that happened to come up in both our lives, but we pressed on and on Friday evening we were on the way to Kentucky, where we stayed about an hour and a half from Louisville for the nite. We woke up early Saturday morning and headed to Kentucky Kingdom.

Untitled

My previous trip to Kentucky Kingdom was back in it’s Six Flags days and it was very meh. Faded paint on the coasters and buildings. Rides not open. A nasty looking waterpark. I rode the coasters and the large Shoot the Chutes and called it a day, not to return again until now. I figured we’d be there for a couple of hours and head on to Holiday World. But Kentucky Kingdom of today was much different than Kentucky Kingdom of over a decade ago, and I had an open mind.

There was a special running that if you were from out of state you got in for $30 for 2 days with a free drink wrist band. We weren’t going to be there 2 days in a row but it was still a great deal so, after parking and heading to the crowded gate, we got our tickets and headed directly to Lightning Run, something I’d been looking forward to for the last couple years.

Lightning RunOkay, so Phantom’s Revenge showed that Morgan can make great coasters from an old Arrow. Lightning Run shows Chance (Morgan) can make a great coaster from scratch and not even hit 200’ tall. In fact, it’s 100’ drop height with a great drop angle that starts the coaster off right. Even though ops weren’t that great (a theme for the weekend), we were in the front row after a 20 minute or so wait. The train, which I’d heard was not comfy for us larger guys, was fine. The first drop was amazing. Then you hit that first ejector hill just before the overbanked curve. After that, the ride is a mess of oddly banked and turned airtime hills, bunny hops, and ejector air. It was so amazing and a lot of fun. Many more parks need this kind of ride. And I’d love to see Chance try their hand at a larger and longer version. Even Phantom falls short in the length department. But Lightning Run is a hit, and landed very high on my ratings.

Untitled

After that we headed over the bridge and across the park. There is a wooden coaster that is highly underrated, recently retracked, and full of potential. I’m talking about Thunder Run. And while I’m thinking of it, I like that three of the coasters are all weather themed.

Thunder RunThis is the ride I wish both of the Hurler coasters were. And I hope that one day Carowind’s Hurler will follow the lead. The first drop was really great and the next set of hills, including the banked/corkscrew Hill), gave major airtime. The ride was smooth and chock full of wooden airtime. And I had to move it up in my rankings. I loved it. And it looked great.

I have to say the park looked amazing. It’s not a brand new park by any means, but with the closing and reopening, all of the rides and buildings were freshly painted without any looking faded. They’d done a great job of making the park look really nice. There were some parts that could use more sprucing up. But right now, lets talk about 2016’s new addition…

Untitled

Storm ChaserAnother year, another chance to chase down and ride a new RMC coaster. I’d heard good things about this ride already. Sadly, they were only running one train. But that’s okay as we didn’t wait very long for the front. That lift hill was blazing fast, and then you drop, turn, turn upside down, and drop again. And it is SO sweet. It was great. Hang time straight in to a drop. Then an amazing airtime hill like RMC is known for. Next its up into the overbanked turn, a turn around, airtime, another overbanked turn into a corkscrew, and then bunny hill bliss with a double up. RMC is making great, amazing, hard hitting coasters, and Storm Chaser is another amazing creation. I may end up with a top 10 of just RMC coasters, and that would be okay.

We hit up T3 next. I didn’t think I’d like the all red paint job, but it pops. The new KumbaK trains without OTSRs were fairly comfy. And that’s about all I can say. The ride isn’t so bad without OTSRs, but it was very herky-jerky. You notice how the train jerks and slows and jumps without the OTSRs. It wasn’t terribly bad. It didn’t hurt. But it just wasn’t that fun.

We went out and changed clothes so that we could hit up some water rides. They really did a great job on expanding the waterpark, and it showed that its the park’s bread and butter. We went over and up the 12 (!) flights of steps to the top of Deep Water Dive, the drop floor body slide. It was still a little hard to walk up that many steps after losing part of my lung, but it was worth it. Carowinds added the drop floor style tube slides this year and they’re great. I’d done a 70’ body slide at Wet & Wild Emerald Pointe the previous month and it was scary, so I was excited to try this one. Isaac went first, and then I went. I love the drop floor. And at least this time I knew what to expect with such a tall body slide. A great thrill and a lot of fun.

Untitled

Next we went over to Kilawaya their Tantrum slide having multiple small funnels throughout the course. The operations on this were horrendous. But the ride was worth it. I liked that in each funnel we got some airtime going up the sides. I just wish the wait wasn’t so long.

We went and got in line for Deluge, the water coaster next, but the line was soooo…long and our time was starting to run short, so after a bit we got out of line and headed over to the Ferris Wheel instead. This was my first time riding since this was my first visit with someone else to the park.

We looked at the line for the Calypso Run, the funnel slide, but decided not to wait for it. Then we looked at the lines for Storm Chaser & Thunder Run which were both too long, and Lightning Run, which was the only one running two trains and had the least wait. We opted for that to be our last ride, riding in the back, and it was amazing again.

After that, we headed out of the park and headed to Holiday World. Even though we didn’t get to ride Kentucky Kingdom’s watercoaster, we would be getting some amazing rides on some others soon enough.

Holiday World

Untitled

Kennywood 2016

kw-logo

May 30, 2016
Pittsburgh PA | Kennywood | Photo Album


Untitled

We woke up Monday morning to head, not to Idlewild as originally planned, but to Kennywood. And I wasn’t a bit mad. I wish I’d been able to go to Idlewild, and Kennywood is magical at nite, but any time spent at Kennywood is enjoyable. We headed to the Giant Eagle near our hotel to get discount tickets and drove the 2 more miles to the park, parking near the escalator, and headed down to the entrance. I was extremely excited as I love Kennywood. And even though we wouldn’t be there at nite, I was going a little nuts inside.

I don’t really remember what the entrance looked like on my first visit which, I believe, was just before they renovated the entire thing, but what they had now is really nice. And I’m glad they painted the concrete walls that take you down to the tunnel. It was much nicer looking.

Once in the park we got a locker near the front and headed back to a fairly empty Kennywood where we quickly ran into the first stop, a newly renovated Noah’s Ark. I was glad that I got to ride the previous year and on this visit in order to compare. First, the whale and it’s tongue were great to see. The ride was a lot of fun, the animatronics very well done, and the whole thing a classic return to form. I’m glad the current owners are putting money in to areas of the park that need it while maintaining Kennywood’s classic charm.

Untitled

This trip to Kennywood was more about getting to do the things I didn’t get to cram in to the previous year, and just enjoying the park for the day. There was one ride that I hadn’t had the opportunity to ride at either Kennywood nor Conneaut, and that was the Turtle. I’d seen it, heard it was fun, but never ridden it, so that was our next stop and it was super fun.

Next up was my former #1 coaster and one that is still ranks high on my list, Phantom’s Revenge. I absolutely love Phantom. And it was running very well. We rode a couple of times in the front but mostly in the back. It has that amazing aggressive airtime that you don’t get on many rides.

I believe that next we rode Thunderbolt. Man, does Kennywood have amazing wooden coasters. It was a great ride as usual. Aggressive but fun, with airtime and laterals. Then we walked across the park to Exterminator. Its the only wild mouse that doesn’t scare me since it is inside and ‘feels’ less like its going to go over the side of the rails, and we got a really fun, spinny ride on it.

Untitled

While over by Exterminator we rode The Whip. I wish they’d put the roof back on as being in direct sun in the hot summer is a bit uncomfortable, but The Whip is a truly classic ride that would still fit in at any park, new or old, and still be popular. And it’s capacity eats people up. Too bad most newer versions of the ride have been relegated to slightly themed kids rides in kids sections.

After having a great time on MaxAir earlier in the trip and Delirium at Kings Dominion earlier in the season, we got in line for Black Widow next. What should have been a 2 cycle wait turned in to about a 40 minute wait. Some kid vomited red slush all over himself and the 2 female ride ops responsible for cleaning it up dragged it out for over 30 minutes. They spent a good 15 minutes standing and looking at it and arguing about having it clean it up. People in line (myself included) got rather vocal because they just stood there.

Then they took another 15 minutes to clean it up when it wasn’t more than a 10 minute job total, before standing around another few minutes complaining until another ride op came over and whipped them in to shape and made them hustle. It was ridiculous. I get not wanting to clean it up, but c’mon. It would have been a 10 minute job that they spent more than a half an hour complaining about when they could easily have been done with it.

Having said that, Black Widow is the best spinning pendulum ride I’d ever been on. It slowly spins clockwise and then counterclockwise, has a large and high arch, and gives a long ride cycle. If my local park were to get one of these types of rides, I’d want this model from Zamperla. It was seriously amazing.

Untitled

Next up we went over to Log Jammer for my first (and last) ride. It was a fun flume ride, and while it thankfully didn’t drench us, it cooled us off in the hot, hot sun. Then we went to Racer. We only rode one side because of the queue being largely in the sun and it being the hottest part of the day. Racer is a fun family friendly wooden coaster that I appreciate more as I’m older. Next was Jack Rabbit, one of the best old coasters with an amazing double down that still throws you out of your seat.

It had been over 10 years since I’d ridden the Auto Race, so we rode that as well, but again, some shade over the queue would be nice. Hand slapping ensued and Auto Race, while not only a classic ride, is a lot of fun. Too bad theres only 2 left in the world.

I’d wanted to ride the the newest dark ride, Ghostwood Estates, for some time. I’d ridden it as Gold Rusher on a previous visit. Ghostwood Estates was really well done. I hadn’t realized it was trackless. It had a fun preshow, and it seemed that all of the attractions’s theming and effects worked. I really enjoyed it. I wish more parks would make trackless dark rides.

We rode the Bayern Kurve next, which is one of my all time favorite rides, then we heading back to Phantom for a few more rides, and then headed to our last ride of the day, Sky Rocket. I loved it. I wish more parks would build medium to larger sized coasters from Premier. Isaac didn’t enjoy it because his restraint was in a bad spot and he wasn’t able to be comfortable, but I really liked Sky Rocket. So with that our day was over. We headed over to the car and back to NC by way of WV, VA, and SC. I love Kennywood, and even though this wasn’t the way we’d planned it I’m glad we had a decent amount of time at the park during the day.

Untitled

 

Waldameer 2016

waldameer-logo-png

May 29, 2016
Erie PA | Waldameer ParkPhoto Album


Untitled

Sunday morning I woke up to breakfast at the Kern’s home in Hudson, OH. And it was really great. I sat and talked to Isaac and his parents for a bit. His mom loves coasters and loved Kennywood so she was excited for our trip. Around 11 AM we headed a couple hours north to Erie, PA for Waldameer which is one of my favorite smaller parks and, surprisingly, one I’ve visited several times in the last few years since my first visit in 2013.

Arriving around 1 PM we were there just after the park finished it’s rolling opening where the rides open in phases about every 30 minutes or so. And our first stop, if I recall correctly, was Ravine Flyer II. I cannot say enough good things about RF2. The line wasn’t long and it was running great. This coaster is near perfection and the reason I keep getting called back to Erie. This coaster is in my top 10 for wooden coasters. The airtime! The view at the top! The first drop! The hills over the road!

Untitled

Next we headed over to the Wacky Shack then to Pirate’s Cove. As we were heading over to ride Steel Dragon, my friend Bryan sent a text to let me know that Kennywood, which was to be our second destination for the day, had closed due to weather. Bummer. So we had to discuss what we wanted to do and regroup. Part of this trip was going to be my first trip to Idlewild the next day, which I was really looking forward to, but they closed at 8 PM, and we wouldn’t get there in time to really enjoy the park. We decided, since Isaac hadn’t been to Kennywood in forever and my time the previous year there was cut short, that we would instead stay at Waldameer for most of the day before heading out to Pittsburgh, and then doing Kennywood on Monday before heading home, forgoing Idlewild and not visiting Kennywood at nite.

This was good in that I never get to spend a lot of time at Waldameer, so we headed to Steel Dragon for a spin. Then we rode the drop tower before heading out of the park for lunch. Bryan had recommended Sarah’s, a burger joint just down the road from Waldameer. I’m glad he did. Isaac had eaten there before but forgot about it. The burgers were really good and worth the trip. Then we headed over on to Presque Isle for a bit before returning to the park. We rode Comet again, then Steel Dragon with the second time way better and way spinnier. Then we rode the the Mega Vortex (Disk-O), the Train, the Ferris Wheel, the Sky Ride, the Log flume for my first time, and I REALLY loved the log flume! Finally we headed back to ride Ravine Flyer several more times. I even ate most of a whoopee pie.

Untitled

There’s so much to do at the park and we really enjoyed ourselves. I like Waldameer and wish there was a similar park closer to me. In fact, I wish someone would turn Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, NC in to a park like this, but alas that will likely never happen. We headed out and stopped at some meh ‘pub’ on the way to Pittsburg before checking in to our hotel and out in the city for the night.

Kennywood Park

Untitled

Cedar Point 2016

CPlogo

May 28, 2016
Sandusky OH | Cedar Point | Photo Album


Untitled

Another year, another Memorial Day trip to Cedar Point. I’m not quite sure how this became an annual thing, and I hadn’t planned on going in 2017, but here it was. My friend Isaac and I left North Carolina on Friday and headed Sandusky, OH. He hadn’t been in many years, but used to work at the park and was excited to return. We arrived in Huron and checked into our room around 7:30 PM, then headed over to the park. Our first stop was Magnum.

Magnum is still one of my favorite coasters. On my previous visit the year before, at the end of the nite I finally got Magnum rides in the dark with the trims off. I’d never experienced that before. But…our first ride of this trip was fairly dark and trimless in the infamous seat 1-3. The ride is brutal, but so much fun. I don’t expect trimless rides, but I’m glad when I get them. We met up with Josh Wozny at the exit and made our way over towards Valravn. After a really great ride on Blue Streak near the back we met up with his girls and got in line for Valravn.

ValravnThis ended up being our only ride on the coaster for the whole weekend, and it was only a 30 minute wait. I was somewhat vocal on how ‘meh’ I felt about this addition. Honestly, I was more excited about the fact that the park was revamping the entrance and area around the ride. I’d ridden Griffon a few weeks prior. So how was Valravn? It was fun. We sat in the second row and I can say that it is probably the most forceful of the 3 US dive coasters I’d ridden. The zero G roll was really good, and you get great views of the park from the top of the lift. Its the best layout for a dive coaster I’d ridden, and its obviously a great addition to the park. But for me, I’m still ‘meh’ about the coaster. I think the renovation of the area around it looks great.

Untitled

After Valravn we headed back to the hotel. The next morning we woke up and headed to the park, arriving as they were letting in Season Pass holders. After the National Anthem we headed in to Gatekeeper first. I’m not sure why people don’t care for that ride. I think it’s a fun coaster. It was a one train wait for the front on the right side. Isaac really liked it. So then we went and rode towards the middle of the left side. We actually stopped about half way up the lift on our first ride.

Next up we walked back to see what else had opened and rode Millennium Force, which was Isaac’s 3rd giga coaster in about a month. We got the second row with minimal wait. The ride was running slightly rougher than I’d seen in the past, but still very fun.

Cedar Point was really fairly dead. We wanted to ride Gemini but it hadn’t open yet. Actually, most of the rides in the park were up and down all day. I will say, I loved the new app with waiting times. Very useful. We ended up riding Maverick instead. I always like Maverick. The ride is almost perfect.

Up next we rode Mean Streak, then Sky Hawk which I had not ridden in a few years as it was down every time I was there. Then we headed to a short wait for Dragster. I’d never seen such a short wait for this ride outside of ERT before, but TTD never had more than about a 30 minute wait all day. Next we rode the shot side of Power tower, then over to Rougaru. It is actually one of the better floorless coasters, which is funny since it was such a terrible stand-up coaster. Isaac was excited about this one because he hadn’t liked Mantis very much.

IMG_20160528_211704

Heading out of the park for lunch, we walked over to Breakers to search for a place to eat which we readily found at TGIFridays. My burger and drink were good and it was nice to take a break and hang out for a bit outside of the park. I really do need to head up to CP for a weekend at the Breakers in the next couple of years, as what they’ve done with it is just amazing.

We walked along the beach and went over to the shore for a bit before heading in to ride Windseeker. Next up was Wicked Twister, which, while I was able to ride this time last year, I was denied on this year. Hey, that’s what happens when you sit around post surgery and eat. Following Isaac’s ride we headed to MaxAir which, up until this trip, had been my favorite swinging pendulum ride. It is still amazing, and placed wonderfully in the park. We headed back out of the park for a while again for some downtime which was a nice chance to chill, and before long a storm rolled in off the lake. After the storm passed we headed back into the park for more riding.

Raptor was up next but then the rain came back. We headed to my car and drove back around to Breakers again where we went and had some drinks until the downpour finally stopped and we went back into the park. We found out that the Brews & BBQ event was cancelled, which was a bummer because that was going to be our dinner. Oh well. We did eventually get to ride Raptor, and had dinner at Famous Daves before going back in and hitting up Gemini, Iron Dragon, and then TTD again.

It was getting late, so we were trying to decide on a last ride. But every time we chose something, it seemed to close. Valravn had another short wait, but the ride went down just as we got in line. We opted for a night ride on Millennium Force instead. Once the park was closed we headed back out and left Sandusky for Isaac’s parent’s house for the night.

Waldameer Park

Untitled