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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Japan 2017 Day 4

17Japan4Banner.jpgSpace World | Photos | Videos


September 13, 2017
Yahatahigashi-ku, Kitakyūshū, Japan

Isaac & I woke up super early again on Tuesday morning, but this time we skipped breakfast at the hotel as they didn’t start serving for another hour or 2 and headed to Kyoto Station to catch the Shinkansen to Space World. I realized I’d forgot my phone on the way to the station, but once we had our tickets for the train we realized we had plenty of time to run back for it and eat a bite at a breakfast place across from Kyoto Station. Breakfast at Topscafe was interesting. You ordered from a machine then hand in your ticket. It was busy, cramped, but clean and the food was very good. Once we finished eating we headed to our platform to catch the train.

We arrived at Space World after a 3-hour Shinkansen ride and a couple of transfers onto the local train line. This area was definitely different from Tokyo & Kyoto. Not one of the major Japanese tourist areas, much further south, even hotter, more humid, and in a more industrial setting. We passed right by the park and into Space World Station. Many people were heading to Space World since it was closing, so we had to stand in line for a bit to get tickets. Lines would be the order of the day.

Thankfully, all of the coasters opened. Unfortunately, all but 3 of them had long, slow lines, with a couple having insane wait times, as they seemed to dispatch trains every 10-15 minutes, just as I’d read online. Since we were prepared it was only slightly annoying, but expected. After getting into the park we headed to Zaturn first, as a launched Intamin was more prone to breaking down. Walking thru the park, it looked very different than the photos I’d seen from even just a couple of years ago. It was clean, but it was definitely not being fully kept up. We headed around the corner and got in line for the coaster. The line wasn’t long, but launches were slow. Once we were in the station, there was an area where you had to lock up all of your personal items, then head into the main queue area. Eventually, though, we were on in the back row of the train.

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Kings Dominion 2017

17KDBannerKings Dominion | Photos | Videos


April 15, 2017
Richmond VA

Saturday morning we woke up and headed north to Kings Dominion. It was much, much easier to get to the park than it was to Busch Gardens the day before. After getting Blake’s pass processed and in to the park the rides started to run. We headed to Volcano first. I knew that this ride would have a ridiculous line later so we went ahead and got in the 20 or so minute line and rode in the front. I still love Volcano. I always think of how much my friend Matthew vocally hated the ride when I’m on it.

Anyways, the launch is really powerful and I love launching back up thru the mountain. I do, however miss the Haunted River, Time Shaft, and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Next was a quick spin on Flight of Fear. Again, the line for this got rather large thru out the day. It was running well. Then we went over to Intimidator 305, again, another amazing ride. I love I305. It has great air and laterals, and speed to die for.

Its actually kind of hard to write a report for Kings Dominion. I don’t know why, but it just feels generic to me. I never used to feel that way, but it does feel that way after a few years of going often. Don’t get me wrong, it has a lot of great rides. But it just doesn’t have an ‘it’ factor for me any more. After I305 we got some Panda Express. Then we went to the top of the Eiffel. I don’t’ know why, usually I have no issues, but today I was terrified of being up there. We didn’t stay long.

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2017

17BGWBanner.jpgBusch Gardens Williamsburg | Photos | Videos


April 14, 2017
Williamsburg VA

In 2017 easter came in early March, the weekend lots of south eastern parks opened since it was a three day weekend. This year, it was much later in the spring, with parks having had time to open their new attractions and get them ready. Carowinds hadn’t completely done that yet, and I’ve been twice already. Six Flags over Georgia won’t open their new for 2017 attraction till May. But Kings Dominion & Busch Gardens had their new rides open and ready, so again on Easter weekend, we headed north, this time with 2 extra people in tow. There were some hiccups (as there so often are) before the trip, but this time not so much with me. Isaac, Stefan, and eventually Blake made their ways to my house on Thursday nite, and around 8:30 we headed north to Richmond.

Getting up early Friday morning, we got breakfast and headed about an hour east to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This was a hot mess. After getting close to the exit, traffic stopped. We went around and tried something else, and eventually found a ‘quicker’ (I use that term very, very loosely) way in, which shaved off…an hour of waiting in traffic. But we still waited in our car. For Two (2!) Hours. Just to park. Right beside the parking lot (I was literally less than 50 yards from the parking lot). Ridiculous. They must not have been in any way prepared for a busy weekend. We could see several failures in directing traffic in the parking lot that were a major cause of the problem. But there was nothing to do.

On the bright side, the park was waiving the parking fee complementary because of the wait. Even at that, I would have had my staff waiting outside of the parking toll booths waiving people thru instead of making them stop to tell them parking was complementary. This itself could have saved a lot of congestion.

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Knoebels Grove 2016

16PPPBannerKnoebels Grove | Photos | Videos


October 8, 2016
Elysburg PA
Phoenix Phall Phunfest

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

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

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

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SoCal 2016 Day 7

16SoCal7BannerSix Flags Magic Mountain | Photos | Videos


September 30, 2016
Valencia CA

Waking up early, we picked up breakfast and headed north to Six Flags Magic Mountain.  This was the only time I’d ever actually been in any of the infamous LA traffic. Friday morning…wasn’t terrible. But we did get caught up in traffic. I think if you go into it with the mindset of it IS going to happen, it’s much more tolerable. I had gotten online a couple days before on Wednesday and signed up for a Six Flags membership, which is like a season pass but you’re locked in for 12 months of around $7 per month payment.  After the initial year, I can either cancel or continue. With taxes and fees, SFMM was around $12 on this trip and the first non special event theme park admission I’d paid for.

After we arrived we paid for parking, went to the front gate, and Isaac got his season pass ticket all before opening. We headed over to the Season Pass processing center to process our passes. It was quick and painless. I will say this, the park needs a lot of cosmetic and infrastructure work (nothing that hasn’t been said before), and the Season Pass center could use just a few touch ups to be really nice, but it looked run down. A theme for the day. Once we got in we headed directly to one of my favorite coasters of all time.

X2I still love this coaster. We ended up on the left side. We put our stuff in a locker and got in line for the front seat. Isaac was excited to try it out. The audio was different than my last time around. The wait was about 30 minutes or so. That first drop is still amazing. You swing to face straight down (well, almost) as you fall down a nearly vertical drop. The ride is a little rough, and shakes, but I like it. The whole ride is just so different than most coasters out there, and I’d really like to see Six Flags purchase a non-free spinning 4D coaster by S&S Sansei at one of their parks for a marquee attraction.

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SoCal 2016 Day 6

16SoCal6BannerKnott’s Berry Farm | Whale Watching | Photos | Videos


September 29, 2016
Long Beach & Buena Park

In the morning we woke up and headed again to the beach after picking up breakfast at McDonalds. This time we went to Seal Beach, since we had plans in Long Beach later, and it isn’t far from there. Seal Beach was again, amazing. West coast got beach game on fleek. Isaac had his birding book, I had my camera, and we walked in the surf while looking at birds and taking pictures. It was great. And such a beautiful morning. I found several more shells that I liked, as I did at Huntington Beach. Isaac found me a really neat dried coral, which unfortunately fell apart on the last day during packing, but whatever. Seal Beach was very nice indeed.

There were some surfers, but the beach was mostly desolate. I’m used to being at east coast beaches, with warmer water, where a beautiful day like this would see quite a lot of people sunbathing and frolicking in the water. We walked north up the coast in the cold surf. Isaac was able to spot several west coast birds with his birding book. At one point we saw some kind of party hat that was wrapped in seaweed. Perhaps someone had too much fun on a party boat.

So we made our way up to Long Beach and onto a whale watching cruise (A three hour tour…). Both of us were looking forward to this. I hadn’t been whale watching since the early 90s as a child, and it was a life changing experience. We saw lots of blue and right whales on that trip. This time we were looking for hump backs like Star Trek IV. And dolphins. And birds. And the trip did not disappoint. There was lots of scenery going along the coast and between the coastline and Catalina Island. And we saw a Hump Back! Plus 2 pods of dolphins. And one bird flew onto the ship. It was a great time, and on the way back, as the sea got choppy, we enjoyed the airtime and aggression of the sea.
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Kings Dominion 2016

16KDBanner.jpgKings Dominion | Photos | Videos


March 25 & 27, 2016
Doswell VA

Day 1

On Friday morning we woke up a little later than planned and headed north to Kings Dominion. This weekend would include 2 new parks for Isaac and a new credit for me. Traffic was a problem for the first part of the weekend, but we finally made it to the park around 1 PM. The park wasn’t very busy and the weather was overcast but the temperature was great. We got in to the park and beelined to Volcano. I wanted to check out the way they re-worked the entrance and station. Sadly, the ride was down. Instead, we headed over to I305 instead.

I think Fury is probably my favorite giga coaster to this point but I305 was very good. It had ejector air, speed, and even though it’s really compact, the ride was a lot of fun and very intense. There was barely a wait to ride. Next I believe we went to Flight of Fear. I have to say, I like that they shortened the queue, but could they please just repaint the queue area, add some lighting, dust it, and make it look less trashy? The ride still ran great. I wish it’d been moved to Carowinds as planned. The Flights of Fear both tend to launch as designed. The Six Flags versions, for the last few times I’d ridden them, did not.

We walked over to Delirium. It looked great, and the ride was a lot of fun. The cycle didn’t seem as long as the 2 Huss Giant Frisbee rides that Cedar Fair operates, but it was still really good, and we got a decent cycle. And the lighting package was great. We went over and had some issues finding the entrance to Grizzly as you have to go thru the Dinos Alive gift shop, which seems like a cluster, and no-one was over by Grizzly. The station seemed like it had gotten some renovations and there was new wood on the ride. I thought it was running as great as ever. I love that ride.

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Carowinds Taste of the Carolinas 2015

15TasteCaroBanner.jpgCarowinds | Photos | Videos


CharlotteNC
Taste of the Carolinas
August 16, 2015

So I was kind of tired of Carowinds. Sure, they had the big new amazing Fury 325, and it *is* amazing. But I went so much after the park opened that I’d not went nearly all summer and hadn’t been back. This was actually my first visit during the summer in 2015. My friend Isaac had been in North Carolina a few years and had yet to visit the park so we picked a date, which just happened to be the final day for the Taste of the Carolinas event they were having on the weekends.

We got up early Sunday morning to head down and get there at opening. They seem to have gotten better at using the hand wands for metal detectors, and didn’t have places set up out in front of the beautiful new plaza. I knew that going on a Sunday would afford us a slower day with shorter lines. Thankfully the weather was wonderful too.We got Isaac at ticket. This was actually the first time I’d used the new ticketing booths.  They’re really nice. Mostly I’d just passed them by as I have my season pass. Once we got inside and got situated we headed back to the monster that now dominates the park.

Fury 325Our first ride was in row 4. The ride was running well for just having opened that morning. It still packed a punch and was very intense. I still couldn’t believe this ride was here at Carowinds. Once we finished, I asked Matt what he thought, and he liked it.

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Kennywood 2015

16KennywoodBanner.jpgKennywood | Photos | Videos


May 24, 2015
Pittsburgh PA

So we left Conneaut and headed towards our next stop, which, unfortunately it seemed to take longer than anticipated to get to and get started. This was the first time I’d not gotten lost on the way (and the first time I didn’t see any of those darn yellow arrows) to…Kennywood!  It had been ten years since my last visit and the park has changed in many good ways. It was a nice evening, and this was my first time getting the ‘true’ night time Kennywood experience (my only other nite experience at Kennywood was during Fright Nights, so that was much different).

After getting into what I’d forgotten was a beautiful park (and this was I believe my first time seeing the new gate), we headed first to purchase Kennywood’s version of pay to cut. It’s a little different, and I really just wish you could go at whatever time and ride everything without waiting once, because the times really kind of set us back. Then we headed to the Bayern Kurve. Unfortunately it broke down just as we arrived, and both of us were really looking forward to riding the ride, so we knew we’d check back later. Since that was a bust, we went to what was for a very long time my favorite coaster ever, Phantom’s Revenge.

Phantom’s RevengeI was blown away by this ride every other tim I rode it. The only thing I didn’t care for was the first drop, actually. I know they’ve replaced all of the track on the first drop, did some tweaks, undid some tweaks, and added a trim. Would it still be amazing? Our first ride was in the front of the ride, a first for me. That first drop was actually better, and the straight track after had some positive forces I didn’t remember. Then you head up and into roller coaster bliss. That first hop up and into the ravine is magical, as is the rest of the ride. Aggressive, powerful, and chock full of airtime. It’s still as amazing and insane as ever. Phantom still holds up after a ten year absence. It’s just that good.

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