Kings Dominion 2018

18KDBanner.jpgKings Dominion | Photos | Videos


March 30, 2018
Richmond VA

Hurler at Kings Dominion had been closed for some time.  Rumors swirled, announcements were made, and in March of 2017 Twisted Timbers, the successor to Hurler opened to the public, an RMC hybrid coaster with the same layout but major re-profiling and 3 new inversions. Over the past few years I’ve spent Easter weekend in Virginia for Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens, but this year, though I had Good Friday off, I had prior plans on Saturday and couldn’t make a weekend of it as I had been. The weather outlook for Friday was not looking good initially and I considered going to Dollywood instead. Friday morning, however, the weather forecast was much better so I left my home just north of Charlotte, NC and headed north to Virginia.

I arrived at Kings Dominion around 1:30 and saw a fairly light crowd of cars in the parking lot. I noticed that Dominator wasn’t open, but lots of other visible rides were up.  Once I was in the park I went to the Burrito place on International Street, but the line was long. So I went to Panda Express. Long line there too. I looked on the KD App to see what restaurants took the all season meal plan and noticed one in Candy Apple Grove. I passed by Chik Fil A (another long line) and headed to Mac Bowl, which was kind of like a Subway for Mac & Cheese. It was decent. Then I headed to the back of the park to see what the wait for Twisted Timbers was like as it wasn’t listed on the app showing wait times though most every other ride in the park was a five or less minute wait.

The line was out near the repurposed store near the ride’s entrance. It didn’t take me long to figure out, though, that the ride was not open. They were sending a train out periodically with 6 people in, but the line was closed. I stood around for a bit and took some pictures, but eventually decided to leave the line. But before that I got a message that some friends of mine were in the park for the ride as well, so I texted Craig. It took a while for him to respond. But in the interim I headed over to Intimidator for a ride.  Sadly, just as I was about to get on, the ride went down. Bummer. So I headed to the next nearby coaster, Flight of Fear. I got in line, but sadly after a bit of standing and not moving, I left and headed to Grizzly.

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Carowinds Opening 2018

18CaroOpenBanner.jpgCarowinds | Photos | Videos


March & April 2018
Charlotte NC

Carowinds Season Pass Preview 2018

Carowinds Season Pass Preview 2018

Carowinds Spring 2018

More pics after the cut…

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Fun Spots America 2017

18FunSpotBannerFun Spots America | Photos | Videos


December 30, 2017
Orlando & Kissimmee FL

Saturday was mostly a leisurely day for me. During the afternoon we hung out at my sister’s house. Eventually, though, I was ready to head out and ride some more rides. I asked my niece and nephew if they wanted to join me. My sister and brother-in-law were going to hang out at home and go out for dinner later. So we headed in to Orlando, thru Disney World for a short cut, and then to our first of two Fun Spot parks, Orlando. This was my first time to either park.

The afternoon was sunny and warm, and as we pulled up and found a place to park, we noticed the area was fairly busy. Lots of families bringing their kids to ride rides. I was impressed with the park from the get go. It was very clean, nicely done, and there were plenty of people everywhere. We took some pictures and headed the long way around the small lake in the middle of the park and over to our first stop…the restroom in the park’s arcade. Then we purchased tickets. I got the 4 rides for $30 bracelet as this would be enough riding for me on this visit. Then we walked towards Mine Blower. My nephew had been to the park for the go-karts, but neither of them had been on the coasters there.

Mine BlowerThere was barely a line. Chris and I rode in the front row and Kaitlyn was behind us. I have to say, I really loved the Timberliner trains again on another coaster. You drop out of the station and head up the lift quickly, where you turn and then hit the first drop. And what a drop it was. Right after, you’re up and over the station, all while upside down. The inversion was really well done, with airtime, making it more like a zero G roll. What followed was a twisted mess of track and turns, with over banked turns, airtime hills, laterals. It was very intense, very much like a mini-Voyage. Very Gravity Group. I loved it!

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SeaWorld Orlando 2017

17SWOBannerSeaWorld Orlando | Photos | Videos


December 29, 2017
Orlando FL

After getting to my sister’s home Wednesday nite we took most of Thursday easy.  Later in the evening my sister, nephew, and I went to Disney Springs to hang out for a while since I’d not been after the change over from Downtown Disney. I had Blaze Pizza for dinner and it was good.  Then on Friday morning we headed into Orlando around 11 AM on our way to SeaWorld Orlando. We were fortunate that my nephew was able to get us tickets thru work at no cost. We had to meet him and some of his work mates there, and once we arrived at the park I saw a packed parking lot.

Of course I knew it would be busy, this being one of the busiest times of the year in Orlando. Normally I wouldn’t want to go to a new park on such a busy week, but it worked out pretty well. We got in line for the tram, but that line was massive so we just walked over to the front entrance and met everyone. I’d been texted the previous day that it was around a 45 minute wait just to get tickets and get inside the park, and this was obvious when you got to the gate. We, however, walked over and got in the ten or so minute line to get in the front gate. Our first stop once inside was to Guest Services as my sister wanted to get a Handicapped Pass, since she has some major back issues and other health problems, so standing in line wasn’t really an option for her.

Once we had that in hand we went to the restrooms and started our day. We passed by some pink flamingos, then Manta on our way over to check out Kraken. I wasn’t interested in the VR, neither was my sister. We went to the entrance and, although the park was super packed, the lines were never bad, save for Manta. And the way they handle the handicapped pass is that you give them the sheet for eligible rides and they give you a return time, much like Disney. They basically looked at the wait time and assigned your time based on that. With Kraken being a 30 minute wait we were asked to come back in 30 minutes for our timed ride. As we walked back towards Journey to Atlantis we noticed that it was a walk-on, so we headed there first.

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Wild Adventures 2017

17WABanner.jpgWild Adventures | Photos | Videos


December 27, 2017
Valdosta GA

As I’d taken two weeks off in September of 2017 to visit Japan I really hadn’t planned a lot of domestic travel in 2017. I knew getting back from Japan would lead into a busy time. The following two weeks after my return to the US were busy with local events including a work trip at Kure Beach. Then there was a pre-planned trip with friends in October to Atlanta. I took most of November easy, but I knew that December would be another busy month to cap off the end of the year. I had tickets to see Janet Jackson in Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA which were rescheduled dates from her Unbreakable World Tour, renamed the State of the World Tour, at the beginning of December. These were the last two dates of that leg of the tour. Needless to say, I was busy.

Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to request 2 days of vacation in between Christmas and the New Years holidays at work, which meant I would have 10 days off in a row. I didn’t plan out anything, but in the back of my mind I had considered spending part of the time in the Orlando area as my sister and her family have been there for 6 years and I’d only made the trip down once. Eventually I made the commitment and let my sister know I’d be down for the latter half of my time off. Time slowly approached and soon it was Friday.

Some more back story, during my trip to Japan there was a position at an office very close to my house that I’d hoped to transfer to before the year’s end. I knew the position would be available, but unfortunately due the incompetence of some human resource employees I missed my chance at an interviewee even though the local management team tried to set up a phone interview while I was abroad. However, in a surprising turn of events, 2 more unexpected positions became available before year’s end. I was able to secure an interview this time, but the wait in between interviewing and finding out whether I was selected for a position was nearly a month an a half. I was in a bad mood during most of that time, but 3 days before the start of my vacation I received confirmation that I would be transferring, starting effective the first of the year.

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Japan 2017 Day 13

17Japan13BannerTokyo DisneySea | Photos | Videos


September 22, 2017
Tokyo, Japan

Because of the weather we had to push the two Disney parks to the end of the trip. This was less than optimal because once the weekend hits, these rather busy parks become extremely busy. But other parks and attractions were affected by weather and Friday & Saturday called for rain, which I knew wouldn’t affect Disney nearly as much.  On Friday morning, we slept a little later than planned.  It was a much needed rest, but eventually we made our way to the Tokyo Disney Resort by around 11am to spend the day at Tokyo DisneySea.  It meant taking a train to Hanieda airport where we had lunch, then a bus directly to the Disneyland resort.

I was afraid since we’d let the morning get away from us, and it was a Friday, that wait times would be unbearable at DisneySea but we actually lucked out for the day.  We headed from Ispiari, their version of a Disneyfied shopping district, to the ticket booth at DisneySea, then into the entry plaza.  Once we passed under Hotel Miracosta, I was just in awe of the entire place.  The entrance was nothing like I’d seen at a Disney park, but once inside everything is just so… amazing.  A high level of detail goes in to everything.  It is absolutely astounding.

Our first destination was Port Discovery as we headed over to our first ride, Aquatopia.  This ride uses RFID pucks to guide water based vehicles around in a very shallow pool (6 inches deep or less) spinning, stopping, and swinging around rocks, waterfalls, and whirlpools.  I anticipated a multi hour long wait, but it was only 25 minutes, so we got in line.  Aquatopia was really a lot of fun!

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Japan 2017 Day 11

17Japan11BannerFujikyu Highland | Photos | Videos


September 20, 2017
Fujiyoshida, Japan

The next morning we had to get to Fuji Q Highland early.  I’ve read nothing but horror stories from both coaster enthusiasts and non enthusiasts, locals and visitors about how terrible the operations at Fuji Q are, and how long the lines are.  During the day, those horror stories would prove to be correct, and they make any poorly run park in the U.S. look like a walk in the park.  So the plan was to get there and be close to the first ones in line.  We woke up from our hotel, headed to the Kawaguchiko station which proved to be quite a walk, stored our luggage, and headed back to the cute Fujikyuko train.  We arrived about an hour before the park opened, and I was shocked (and didn’t quite believe) that we were the first ones in line at the back gate.  There were some Russians staying at our hotel that showed up after a bit, as well as some locals who had internet tickets.

In order to get to do all of the major coasters, we were planning to quickly exchange our tickets then, once the rope dropped, literally running to the middle of the park where the very limited express passes could be purchased for rides. Express Passes are sold at the resort, online (but only on the Japanese site), and a few local convenience stores which means they sell out very quickly on the morning of.  So at 8:20, we were able to exchange our passes and, even though they were letting in resort guests early, we were at the front of the rope for the rope drop. Once the park was opened it was go time.

EVERYONE runs, either to whatever coaster they plan on hitting up first, or towards the middle of the park to buy express passes. We were at the back gate, so you had people at the front gate all heading to the Express Pass booth. Isaac sprinted, and though I tried to keep up, I just couldn’t do it. So I briskly walked as quickly as I could after the first initial burst, and was happy to see Isaac being the second person in line when I rounded the corner. Score!

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Japan 2017 Day 9

17Japan9Banner.jpgTokyo Dome | DECKS Odaiba | Photos | Videos


September 18, 2017
Tokyo, Japan

Monday morning was a late morning, and we needed it.  We grabbed breakfast at a restaurant near the hotel and headed up to Tokyo for some sight seeing and attractions.  First stop:  LaQua.  We went over to Tokyo Dome City and LaQua to see if Thunder Dolphin was running.  The whole area was really nice.  I had considered going to LaQua Onsen while here, but didn’t get a chance.  We walked around the rides section by LaQua and eventually got a ticket for the coaster.

Thunder DolphinYou head up the first hill, drop, pop up on top of a building, dive thru a ‘hole’ in said building, then dive thru and around a hubless Ferris Wheel, then back up on the building for some trick track before dropping down and hitting the brakes.  As far as hyper coasters go, it was what everyone else has said.  A good couple of drops, no major airtime, but a fun coaster, and it looks stunning.  It gives a few good views as well.  The hills really didn’t have much airtime, and the trick track was odd, but I liked it.  I probably wouldn’t pay to ride it again, though.

We walked around the Tokyo Dome, in to a gift shop, and back out onto the plaza where there were a ton of cosplayers all over before heading over to the other rides section.  We were going to ride the parachute drop, but the line was too long, so we had dinner at a burger joint in Tokyo Dome instead. Then we walked back thru the cosplayers, LaQua/Tokyo Dome City, and caught our next train down to the waterfront area to hit up Sega Joypolis.

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Japan 2017 Day 8

17Japan8Banner.jpgNagashima Spa Land | Photos | Videos


September 17, 2017
Nagashima Japan

Sunday was planned as our last non—Tokyo day. Our Japan Rail pass was done after that day, but again we wake up to rain. We talked and talked and decided to take the hour and a half transit trip to Nagashima and hope for the best. We had to take 2 trains and a bus to get to the park. You can see Nagashima Spa Land from a distance. It’s often considered the Cedar Point of Japan, and really, that fits well as a comparison. On a peninsula. You go over a causeway to get to it. You can see the massive rides in the distance.

Nagashima was very much a Cedar Point feeling park. Clean, large midways. Large coasters, new and old. Modern and classic flat rides. Water park. Hotel. Big ole’ Ferris Wheel (which just happen to be everywhere in Japan). We got there and honestly, it was mostly a worst case scenario. The rain subsided, but it was supposed to come back with a vengeance for the day. We didn’t want to pay $50 to go in and not ride anything, but there is a cheaper entrance fee and you can buy tickets. Isaac and I discussed it, asked if Steel Dragon would be open (it wasn’t running), was told it was unlikely, and at the time, the only coaster that was running was Arashi, the new for 2017 S&S 4D Freespin. Then, as we were talking to the gentleman at guest services, Acrobat, the parks newer B&M flying coaster, a clone of Manta in the U.S. opened.

I wasn’t happy, because this was the only chance I’d get at the park on this visit without spending way over budget to come back, and I wasn’t willing to do that. So we eventually decided to try to make the best of it, go in, and maybe get some credits and enjoy what we could of the park. Again, I wasn’t happy, but there’s nothing you can do when the island is getting hit by a typhoon. I wish I had planned for the water park, because it was open and not busy, but I thought it would be closed this time of year, as most waterparks in the country are.

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Japan 2017 Day 5

17Japan5BannerUniversal Studios Japan | Photos | Videos


September 14, 2017
Osaka, Japan

Universal Studios Japan is another busy park where you must arrive before opening to get an Express Pass, otherwise it sells out and the lines can be outrageous. Since you can’t get the Pass online on any English website based in the US, it has to be purchased onsite. So after going to sleep early, we got up early and headed to Osaka once we checked out of Hotel Anteroom (I had accidentally booked one less night than we needed, but we decided just to Hotwire a room in Osaka). Osaka is a very convenient hour or so train ride from Kyoto.

We arrived a good hour before park opening. I’m actually fairly proud of the fact we were able to do this for all of the parks we needed to. After purchasing our tickets and choosing our express passes, we got in the massive line to go in. Thankfully the older lady selling us tickets was very accommodating with our lack of Japanese and helped us pick the correct Express Passes. Then just before 8:30, Woody Woodpecker and his girlfriend came out to greet everyone.  Once the gates opened, everyone rushed into the park. Universal is another Japanese park with a covered ‘main street’. My first impression of the park and CityWalk were that they were definitely modeled after both of the US Universal parks, and that’s great.

At this park, you choose which type of Express Passes you want. You get 4 A level rides at timed slots, then get B level rides (You choose between 2 rides for the 3 slots) you can use at any time. This is a busy park with long lines, so we wanted to maximize our Express Passes and play it smart. Hollywood Dream, the park’s mini B&M Hyper, is running one of its 4 trains backwards and calling it Backdrop. We decided to hit it up first thing since it’s only one of the trains, and they were running 3 forward. The wait was between 20-30 minutes, not bad considering you were waiting for only one of the four trains.

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