The pandemic has obviously been hard. Or, it’s been hard for some people. Other people decided to go about their lives as if nothing was going on. Which is why the pandemic was going into its second year and people were still getting sick and dying. When it initially hit that we were heading into a full blown pandemic without a vaccine, I prepared myself mentally to be inactive for about a year, as I figured that would be the earliest that we would have a vaccine and start to get back to normal. But around the beginning of the year with revelations that vaccine commitments to the US were far short of what had been stated by the government at the time, I started to worry that it would be far into the summer, possibly the end of summer before I could even begin to think about travel.
Then vaccinations started to roll out quicker and quicker. Then before I knew it, I was eligible. So I was fortunate enough to schedule a shot on the first day I became eligible, then schedule my second shot a month later. In between, I realized that I would be fully vaccinated by my scheduled vacation in June. And then I realized that I’d be vaccinated by Good Friday, a holiday that we get off at work. So I decided to plan a small trip. My first trip since an overnite at the beach in the summer of 2020. My first trip out of the state since February 2020. My first trip to a theme park since December of 2019. To say I was excited was a bit of an understatement.
I’m going to be completely open and honest. At that point, I knew that recommendations were for people to not start traveling yet. The reasoning behind that recommendation by the CDC was that fully vaccinated people can still carry the virus and transmit it to people that aren’t yet vaccinated. And I’m going to be open about my selfishness here in stating that because I had done what was requested of me, because I had stayed home and given up most of the past year of my life to stay safe and keep others safe. Because I had made the right decisions, I was no longer interested in whether or not other people were being safe. If they hadn’t made the decision at this point to not be reckless with their health, its no longer my responsibility. I was vaccinated and ready to go. Then the CDC, just days before my trip, changed their recommendation for vaccinated people and travel. And travel I did.
There are people that were able to safely travel during the previous year, but because of my health issues, I chose not to, for both myself and others. I had a couple of ideas on where I wanted to go; I decided that I would spend the weekend in Atlanta, one of my favorite cities. I knew I could visit Six Flags. I knew I could get some good food. It’s a place I’m familiar with. So I chose Atlanta. The trip didn’t go exactly as I’d wanted or planned, but I had fun nonetheless.
As a child, I couldn’t wait to go to the beach every summer. Growing up, Myrtle Beach had it all-Beaches, Amusement Parks, Water Parks, Nite Life, Shows, Food, and more. And nearly every year growing up we spent a week there.
I don’t visit Myrtle Beach as often. They tore out one of my favorite amusement parks, the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, leaving a nearly empty plot of land there for nearly 15 years at this point. Then there was a large theme park built, Hard Rock Park. I didn’t get to visit until it’s second and final year, after it had made the switch to Freestyle Music Park, with much of the original theme already removed.
But I had a week off, and my original plans were put on hold due to work obligations, so I decided to travel to the beach. I didn’t plan on doing much. The only amusement park left, the Family Kingdom, would be closed during my visit, and since a hurricane had just came through, this made planning difficult. However, a couple of days after the storm passed I made reservations at the Crown Reef Waterpark & Resort for a few days. The entire city was dead for the first 3 days due to so many cancelling out due to the storm. That was actually nice.
March 22-23, 2019
Copperhead Strike Debut
I’ve lived in NC for nearly a decade now.In that time, my home park of Carowinds has added 3 major steel coasters, 4 new thrill rides, a slew of new kiddie rides, and have renovated and refurbished nearly the whole park. And they don’t seem to be finished yet. But in 2019 the park followed up their 2015 addition of Fury with Copperhead Strike, a Mack dual launched inverting coaster. I’ve been excited for months to check it out, and finally it was time.
I hate Season Passholder nite. I wanted to get off work early, but that didn’t happen. I knew it would take me at least 90 minutes in Friday evening Charlotte traffic to get from work to Carowinds. Its like that every year. I had flashback to Fury, though, and even though the line was super long, the capacity on a 3 train B&M Giga is pretty good, so the line lasted about 90 minutes or so. That was not to be the case this time.
I arrived at the park around 7 PM. The parking lot was packed. There is a strong Season Pass base in Charlotte. Once I finally got parked in the nearly full parking lot I made my way to the front gate since South Gate wasn’t open. Then I waited in line again to get through security. THEN I finally got into the park and ran to the restroom before heading towards the newly added Blueridge Junction. Coming around the corner I could hear the entertainment and see the entrance to the new area. It flows so nicely from the recent addition of County Fair.
If you can’t find a way to go to Cedar Point during dead week, Memorial Day Weekend has proven to be a great time to head to Cedar Point and find moderate attendance and lighter lines. In the past four years I’ve spent 3 Memorial Day weekends at the park, and have had a great time on each visit. Even with the long drive from North Carolina to Sandusky, the trip is worth it to visit America’s Roller Coast, and having followed the transformation of Mean Streak into Steel Vengeance over the last 2 years, I was determined to get to the park this year to ride. My friends Isaac and Blake joined in, and on Friday morning we headed north.
Isaac found a nice AirBnB about 30 minutes south of the park and, after stopping off there to drop off our stuff and freshen up, we made our way onto the peninsula. We parked in the Cedar Point Shores parking lot since the Magnum lot was closed, and headed in to meet up with Bryan Bird. After introductions and salutations, we walked towards Dragster, which was testing after being closed. The line opened as we walked by, so we quickly got into the queue as the wait wouldn’t be this short all weekend most likely.
Dragster is always a great experience, even if it isn’t a great coaster. We waited about 35 minutes or so to ride near the back of the train. Dragster always makes me anxious because of that launch. This was Blake’s first time at the park and first time on anything like this. As always, the launch was super fast and intense and I really still like Dragster as a ride. This was our only ride all weekend because it was being cranky both days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thunderbird–I 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.
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.
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?