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 5

16SoCal5Banner.jpgDisneyland Resort | Photos | Videos

September 28, 2016
Hollywood & Anaheim CA

Waking up the next morning we had some of our leftover Korean food for breakfast before hitting up the pool, then heading out. We were going to find the Hollywood sign from a good vantage point so we headed to LA and then to Hollywood. We actually accidentally ended up at the foot of the hike up to the Hollywood sign. We weren’t prepared, nor did we have the time to do the hike, though I definitely want to do that at some point, so we walked a little bit up the trail before heading back down and driving back to Anaheim for day 2 of Disneyland, or in this case, California Adventure.

Today there were no GPS mishaps. We parked in the parking garage and headed to the Grand Californian on a much easier route this time, meeting up with our contact/new friend for a drink at the bar at the Grand Californian. She was starting her vacation today and wanted to start off right, so we gladly obliged. I had a drink made with Wild Turkey, Red Stag, and something that made it all taste a bit smokey. It was good.

I really did enjoy my visit to California Adventure on my last visit a decade ago, but the park has now grown in much more, and obviously there is that recent billion dollar make over. There were elements I liked from the original, but I won’t mourn their loss much because California Adventure, as it stands now, is amazing. We headed over to Pacific Wharf and straight to the main attraction there.

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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.

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Knott’s Berry Farm 2012

12KBFBanner.jpgKnott’s Berry Farm | Photos | Videos

December 17, 2012
Buena Park CA

I had gone back and forth on what day I wanted to drive out to L.A. and visit some parks. After checking on line everyone said that it would be a busy week, especially the weekend. I was going to go on Sunday and meet up with someone, but they weren’t feeling well, so I pushed it back to Monday hoping it wouldn’t be as busy. I woke up and headed out from Vegas around 6 AM. I stopped for gas and a Red Bull and actually made it to Knott’s Berry Farm around 10:30 AM, and that was with traffic. I also passed by 2 overturned vehicles and two tire blowouts on the way.

Going in to the parking lot I flashed my Platinum Pass at the gate to park and headed to the front entrance. It didn’t look to be too busy at this point and I was only planning on staying at Knott’s for about 2 hours. Unfortunately, my pass wouldn’t scan at the front gate so I had to get a comp ticket, but that didn’t take very long. Once inside, I was reminded of how much I loved Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s such a charming, clean, and beautiful park. I headed over to my first credit. At this point, the midways were all but abandoned. There were people there, but not a lot.

Sierra SidewinderI wasn’t really looking at this as more than a quick credit. Both trains were running, but they were only loading one, and the wait was maybe 6 or 7 minutes. I sat facing backwards in the front car by myself, with 2 larger guys sitting in the same car facing forward. I REALLY liked this ride! I was surprised at how well I liked it. The first curved drop was great and it has some fun laterals, a bit of airtime, and great spinning action. Everyone on the ride seemed to enjoy it as well. I went in not expecting much, but this was actually a really fun ride, and a great way to start my day.

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Universal Studios Hollywood 2005


Citywalk & Hollywood 2005

I had planned this trip for months. I had never been to the west coast and didn’t think it was possible financially at this point in my life so I wasn’t planning on going to California. My original plan, then, was a trip to Florida in February. But one nite in an IM chat a friend had told me about Winter Coaster Solace at Knott’s Berry Farm and that I should go. At the time I was working 4 ten hour night shifts at a state run hospital and one good thing about my job was that I could get off work with ease. I started accruing leave from the first day I began working there. And since the West Virginia Dept. of Human Resources received a $1000 bonus at the end of the previous year year, I was more than on my way to a SoCal trip fund.

It took some convincing, but eventually I talked one of my friends into going with me. Jamaal had been to Frisco and Sacramento years before to visit his aunt as a teenager but now we were both adults. After months of planning, saving, and hard work on Monday and Tuesday nites Jamaal and I had our trip planned. It was rough at first; we had problems getting the airline tickets thru American Airlines and tickets for Maroon 5’s first concert on their Honda Civic tour.

The week leading up to our trip was very busy for both of us. There were a couple of last minute reservations to make and we almost missed getting our ultra cheap Disneyland Resort park hopper tickets. Saturday, the day before we left was going to be busy, as I had a previous engagement that afternoon and then work that nite. Sundays were always busy for me, and then we had to leave around 2 pm to drive 5 hours north to my Grandmother’s house, which wasn’t fun on so little sleep. I had only about 2 hours of sleep in 2 days. But once we arrived at my sisters I got my second wind.

We headed through town and to my Grandmothers house, where I visited with her for a bit, then used my brother’s computer to check in for our flights. Neither of us had flown in years, and this was our first time flying post-9/11.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

Early twenty something experience (or lack there of) being what it is, we somehow decided it was cheaper and more convenient to fly from Dulles to L.A. We lived about 6 hours from Dulles but were able to sleep at my grandmother’s house the night before which was about 2 hours from Dulles. On Monday we woke up early, but later than we should have, rushed to get ready, and head the 2 or so hours to Dulles Airport. On of my best friends was working there at the time and was able to get free parking for the duration of the trip, another deciding factor to fly from Dulles instead of, say, Charlotte, a major hub that was closer to home.

We arrived at Dulles around 8 am for our 9 am flight. I knew that flying wasn’t as easy as it used to be, and had told Jamaal that we needed to be there about 2 hours prior to our flight, but he continued to make decisions that pushed our arrival at Dulles back. We arrived at our baggage check with about a minute before our flight’s cut off . After hurrying to check in and thru security, we were at the gate. We made it to our plane on time to board with seats near the back. I hadn’t flown in over 14 years and was excited for take off. I had almost forgotten how it felt. We would have had almost an hour early arrival, but the pilot had to slow down over the Rockies so as not to arrive too early.

I enjoyed flying again. We flew over the Appalachian Mountains, over the plains of the Midwest, then over the Rockies and Grand Canyon. Our in-flight movie was ‘The Incredibles’, which I had already seen and loved. I kept trying to sleep since I hadn’t slept much the night before, but it was futile. I hated Jamaal for being able to. Instead I took pics from the air, watched some of the movie, and tried to nap.

Not long before noon we arrived at our destination. The flight had been fairly turbulent, which I enjoy. After touching down we picked up our luggage and hopped a shuttle to Alamo to pick up our rental. Thankfully, the girl at the counter thought Jamaal was cute so she upgraded our car. Thankfully we picked unlimited mileage.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

We asked for directions from Sepulveda Blvd. to Universal City for our first destination, Universal Studios Hollywood. The drive took about an hour, but it was, according to my friend Matthew, the long way around. Oh well. We were able to see some of LA and I caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign, so that was cool. After arriving to Universal City we headed up the hill to park, changed our clothes, and headed CityWalk. I had a coupon for $15 off, so we picked up our tickets and went inside. I was more impressed with the park than I expected to be. We passed by the Van Helsing walk thru, which was only operating at certain times, and hadn’t opened yet, so I looked at our map and decided that we should head down the hill towards Mummy, our first coaster of 2005.

I’d never been to a park with so many escalators before. It was odd going down the mountain side to the lower level of the park but once down there we saw ‘Revenge of the Mummy’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ rides. Of course, we headed to Mummy first. The line was very short. The queue of Mummy was highly themed, with booby traps and a pre-show.  We got into the loading station and rode next to the back of the car. Then it was into the themed section of the ride.

Revenge of the Mummy-You roll into the first themed section of the ride, round a corner where the Mummy talks to you before Imhotep, just above you, sends you launching into the first coaster section of the ride, with twists, turns, dips, and laterals. Then you come to a stop atop a hill in a chamber where scarab beetles attack, just as you’re launched backwards into another twisting & turning coaster section. You come to a stop yet again in a domed room with projectors and are spun around while the Mummy is defeated before a door opens and you roll back into the station. I do wish that it was a bit longer, but the ride was really good. This was my 95th credit.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

Mummy was a lot of fun. I appreciated the free for an hour lockers located at the entrance even if we did leave our stuff in over an hour and ended up having to pay. Jamaal and I were both hungry so we went to the Jurassic Park Café for some grub. I wish we would have gotten the meal plan for the day. I had a large soft chocolate chip cookie, a grilled chicken sandwich with fries, and a peach Arbor Mist. We were close to Jurassic Park and I’d wanted to ride it for quite some time. It was nearly a walk on, so we hopped into the back seat of our boat.

Jurassic Park The Ride-The ride was very well themed. The only thing that didn’t seem to trigger on time was the falling Jeep. I was kind of amazed at the forced perspective as you get near the top of the lift. I guess because it was so dark inside I was fooled. The T-Rex animatronic was cool. We didn’t get very wet on the drop which was a good thing, even though the day was hot. All in all, I was not disappointed.

After taking a few more pictures we did the Backdraft effects show, which was also very neat. I jumped at the end when the ceiling came down. After Backdraft we once again got in the very short line for Mummy. During our time in the station house, I heard the ride ops say “Welcome to Superman: The Escape” which was kinda funny (if you’re a coaster geek and got the joke). The ride ops looked more like Pirates than whatever they were supposed to look like.

Our second ride on Mummy was just as fun. I liked the ride. After spending some time at the lower end of the park we headed back to the first level. We headed back up to the upper level of the park to try Van Helsing Fortress Dracula. I like dark rides, but…

Van Helsing Fortress Dracula-They should be slightly better than this. Don’t get me wrong, the actual theming was good. The rooms were filled with sets and effects, and there were people to scare you everywhere. The last huge guy did scare me a bit. But the attraction falls short. You know there is someone lurking around because there is a ‘guard’ standing around each scare actor. It could have been better if it was actually more ‘PG-13’ like advertised, instead of a neutered PG.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

It was starting to get late and the park closed at 6pm so we had to make a decision on either watching the Waterworld show, which I really wanted to see, or the Studio Tour. It was an hour tour, but very worth it, and I’m glad we chose it.

Studio Tour-This was the best part of the park. The tour went thru many famous sets and even some scenes such as the subway disaster, a King Kong scene that I was really happy about since I didn’t get to ride Kongfrontation at the Florida park. There was a Mexican town with a flash flood and a Jaws scene that was fun to finally see in person, even if the Shark needed some work on the skin. One of the last scenes we went through was from the ‘War of the Worlds’ remake that had recently been added. Jamaal took pictures and filmed quite a bit. We both enjoyed the Back lot tour a lot.

I had wanted to ride both Terminator 3D and Shrek but didn’t have enough time. We did opt for Back to the Future: The ride instead.

Back to the Future The Ride-I had heard bad things about the ride, but it was still fun for a first time ride. The queue was nicely themed, the pre-show was funny, and the actual simulator was decent with the movement and fog, etc. A fun ride, but something I could skip the next time.

At this point the park was closing phone battery was starting to die. But we were making plans to hook up with my friend Matthew for dinner. I called Matthew to find out where he was, and then he called me kind of confused, because we were at different parts of the park and I wasn’t familiar with where we were in order for him to pick us up.

After finally meeting for the first time in person Matt drove us to Hollywood. We parked near the Kodak theater, walked in to look at the list of Oscar Best Picture winners, then walked down by the Chinese Theater which was beautiful, and then over by the El Capitan. I still didn’t get to see Janet Jackson’s star on the walk of fame, but we did see Michael’s and ate at Hamburger Hamlet across from the Chinese Theater.

Dinner with Matthew was very nice. The food was good, and though I’d have liked to spend more time hanging with him, we had to get some sleep. So we opted to call it a nite and headed to Anaheim to our motel. We talked to Tina and Bill on the phone to make plans for the next morning as we were all staying at the same place, then I fell asleep while watching 24.
Disneyland Resort Part 1

Citywalk & Hollywood 2005