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 325–Our 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.
Doug and I got in to my car and headed across Pennsylvania to a place I’d never been, but had toyed with stopping by on my last trip this way. I knew I’d better stop thinking and just go, because it’s a park that just may not be with us for the long haul. After what seemed like an eternity driving thru the countryside of Pennsylvania, we finally arrived…at Conneaut Lake Park.
The front of the park actually shows what kind of potential the park has (had?), but it is totally unused. This is one of those parks that I just wish I had some money, time, and labor to make it so much better. After walking thru the front gate area, there were 4 pads with rides, and some empty or half empty pads. We walked around all of that and headed back towards the middle of the ‘park’ (I use that term very loosely) and got what ended up being my 4th wristband of the trip at $10, which was actually kind of a steal, and I do feel good about supporting a small park, even one struggling.
There were actually a decent amount of people in the park, and everything that could be running was up and running. The only thing I wish I’d ridden that we skipped was the Tumblebug. After the $10 band purchase, we went to Devil’s Den.
Sunday morning we woke up, quickly got ready, and left the motel in Sandusky as soon as we could. It was really terrible. So we headed off on a trip I felt I’d just made not long before to Waldameer, thru Cleveland and back up to Lake Erie. Waldameer was going thru a transformation, and had a new front gate and they were also beefing up their already quaint looking (and popular, it would seem) water park. The new front entrance was nice. I wish there was something like Waldameer somewhere in North Carolina. It’s charming, it has lots of quirky stuff. It’s affordable family fun, and it’s just a great little park.
Heading over to see what was already open as the park does a rolling opening we rode the drop tower first. I actually like the fact that you drop as soon as you hit the top, and you don’t know when that will be. Plus you get amazing views, and the last time I was there it was gloomy and overcast. After that we went through the haunted house, Wacky Shack. I had done this last time, so I knew what it was all about, but it was neat to see the look on Doug’s face when it was all over. I wasn’t going to miss doing Pirate’s Cove this time, since it came so highly recommended by EVERYBODY last time. I just thought it was a small kiddy funhouse and didn’t bother; it hadn’t opened yet so we went over to our first coaster of the day, Ravine Flyer II.
Ravine Flyer II–I absolutely love Ravine Flyer and it was moving faster than the last time I was there. I don’t quite know why they weren’t filling both trains, they most definitely had enough in line to do so, but whatever. We rode near the front of the train for the first ride. I love the first drop, and man, those hills over the road kill it for me. They have amazing airtime and I love them. Hopping around on the other side of the road and back is a lot of fun and this time there was sustained speed even thru to the end. This ride really ranks high for me, and I didn’t expect to be back so soon to ride it, but again, I’m so grateful to have been able to make the trip. Over the course of the day we rode at least 2 or 3 more times.
On Saturday we got up early and after some motel issues we were off to the park. After stopping for some breakfast at McDonalds we headed down the causeway. After parking back by Gemini we headed into the park which wasn’t actually open yet except to Platinum Passholders and hotel guests. Walking down a mostly empty Gemini Midway in the early morning was nice. And we had a great day ahead of us with Fast Lane. We headed over to Maverick to see about getting in line once the park opened, but because I had a Platinum Pass, they let us both get in line for the ride.
Maverick–The wait was maybe 15 minutes. I’d never had a front seat ride on Maverick that I could remember, so we got in line for the front. First the obvious, the new restrains were really comfy. My love for Maverick never waivers. That first drop really was great and the airtime was amazing. I felt the ride was running a bit slow on this trip, but that’s okay. I missed the lights in the tunnel launch. But it was still such a well rounded ride and I wish there were more rides like this in the states. It seems like if parks aren’t interested in Intamin that Mack can make something just as good.
Next we were going to keep the magic going by heading to Millennium Force, but it was stuck on the lift for quite a while. We had Fast Lane, so we knew we could come back later so we headed front entrance so that Doug could see the rest of the massive park by way of the Sky Ride. There were tons of school bands in the park performing, which was also nice. We took pictures and then headed out the front gate for more pictures. There was such a shift in people flow now that the front gate had been renovated and it was so much better, and way more photogenic. We headed back in and used Fast Lane for Gatekeeper.
In 2015 Carowinds had their first big Season Pass Preview nite. I say for Carowinds, because 2015 was not only about the new coaster, or the mostly overlooked new slingshot, or the new front gate, or any of that. The weekend was about the reinvention of my home park. And Carowind’s reinvention was poised to be relevant for years to come.
Even before the official announcement, the local geeks had all been foaming at the mouth, myself included. When the rumors that something 300’ was coming as well as other major improvements to the park started to pop up, the speculation was wild. Too wild at many times, and very annoying at other times. But that’s done. This weekend was it.
The park looked great when you get past 2014’s addition of a new toll plaza. Then you get into the parking lot and head to the front gate. It was amazing. A beautiful plaza. It was familiar but different. It was modern and fresh, evoking the newer front gate at Cedar Point. It worked and was far easier to navigate. Once inside I headed to find the line for Fury. It was overcast. Because I’d been on vacation the prior week I wasn’t able to attend media day, so this was my first time in the park this year. And because of Charlotte traffic I was 30 minutes later than I’d wanted to be.
Arriving at the park around 9:30 AM we got in the line to the parking lot which opened around 9:50, then parked right near the entrance. We had printed our $15 off coupons to get in to the park and gotten our tickets so we headed over to the entrance, which opened promptly at 10:00 AM. Most rides were apparently going to open at 10:30, but just as we got back to get in line for Goliath, which started in the bridge near the entrance, the rain really started to pour. So that meant that rides were delayed.
We hoped that rain would let up just enough for us to at least get our credits as Goliath was going to be 700 for Jay, and I was going to hit 300 at some point, and radar backed our hopes up. Finally, the rain stopped and the coasters started testing. Then they let us in line for Goliath. It was close to 11:00 AM when we got on, so a total wait of less than 30 minutes not counting the rain delay. This would be my 3rd full RMC coaster, though my first with all topper track (note: I had ridden Georgia Cyclone which had some topper track, and I though it ran amazing with the topper track. I was excited.
Goliath–We rode in the front row. Goliath had a great first drop. Then it went up into the overbanked turn around that had pops of airtime in the entrance and exit of the element. Then there was the airtime hill with some major ejector air followed by the dive loop, which had some awesome and comfortable hang time. Then it goes into the zero G stall which, again, had amazing hang time. Next you hit the other turn around with airtime in the entrance and exit, then up with a shot of ejector airtime into the brake run. It was really amazing. It had a short ride time, but it packed a punch. It was not my new number one, but it was very good, like a mini Texas Giant. Continue reading →
Saturday morning technically came at about 1:20 AM. That’s when the other Matt showed up and disrupted our sleep. His flight was delayed by several hours in Atlanta. I swear, he has the worst luck with flights. Anyways, I didn’t get much sleep after that. But we had to get up early to go pick up the rental car, so 7:30 it was.
After getting ready we headed down to the lobby as the front desk called us a cab. We got in and out of Enterprise pretty quickly with a cute little Hundai. Then we immediately headed to Walmart for supplies and breakfast. Then we headed out to the La Cantera area of San Antonio.
La Cantera is a development that houses some resorts, a large mall, Six Flags, and other things. They took old rock quarries and redeveloped them, and it turned out very nice. Joe and Hannah parked at the mall and rode into the park with me and the Matts since I had national free parking with my season pass. We took the opportunity to take some pictures of the coasters from the top of the cliffs of the quarry that the park sits in.
I woke up early on Saturday morning. It was still very overcast and misty. I left Cleveland going north east, and after less than 90 minutes I was at Waldameer. That Sirius XM had a Daft Punk special on made the drive go by even faster. I got to the park and it immediately reminded me of a nicer Camden Park. It was very quaint. I got there around 11:00 AM, but the park didn’t actually ‘open’ until noon, and then they do the rolling open where rides open in phases through 1 PM. After buying my wrist band the lady at the gate noticed my nifty Gatekeeper jacket and asked how I liked it. I ran in to some other coaster geeks in the park throughout the morning, all very nice.
The first hour I spent wandering around the park, taking some bad photos since the lighting was terrible, and sat down for a bit. The park was very quaint, and the employees were very friendly. I’d love to have a park this size close to me for convenient evening coaster riding. And right at noon, the National Anthem played and some rides opened. My first ride was the Wacky Shack dark ride. It was really a lot of fun. Again, it reminded me a lot of Camden Park There were some decent flat rides, but I didn’t feel like spinning a lot during the day. I rode the chair lift across the park and took more pictures. I wanted to ride the Mega Disc-O, but decided to skip it. Besides, there was one at my next destination, Kennywood, right? (Insert ominous tone here) So after getting back around to the end of the ride I headed to the Comet, the park’s smaller wooden coaster.
Comet–This was a lot of fun. I was in the 2 row. There was nice light floater air over the various hills. You turn and go up the lift hill and the first drop, while not very large, was fun. And there were plenty of hills. Plus the setting is very nice running thru the trees.
I went and got in line for the drop tower next, which was very good. It drops you as soon as you hit the top, and you don’t stop till very near the bottom. Then, finally, I walked over and waited till Ravine Flyer 2’s queue opened. There was about a train’s worth of people in front of me. When I did finally get in the station, I opted for the front.
Ravine Flyer 2–This coaster was really amazing and packed such a punch for a smaller wooden coaster. The first drop had beautiful views of Lake Erie, and then it’s airtime over the bridge, amazing airtime on the turnaround section, more airtime back over the bridge, airtime up and down, then a slower 90 degree turn that was odd, and then you dive back in the ravine, then up and into the brake run. It was non-stop. I immediately got on closer to the back and it was even more insane.
After riding RF2 a couple of times I went over to Steel Dragon. It spins, so I didn’t know how I’d like it. I was in line for a bit, but the park just wasn’t that crowded, so it was ok.
Steel Dragon–I set on one side while 2 smaller adult brothers were on the other side. I went up the hill backwards. The first drop was really amazing. We got some decent spinnage when we hit the release for the car. This was my first of this type of spinner, and it was definitely better than the Gerstlauer spinners and the spinning mice I’d ridden. Highly enjoyable. I’m not sure why more parks, big and small, don’t have one of these.
I went back over to Ravine Flyer 2 for some more backseat rides. This was going to rank highly for me. It was smooth, fast, and chock full of airtime. I toyed with another Comet ride, but I wanted to get to Pittsburgh. I was going to stop by Conneaut on the way, but I didn’t have cell service, so I couldn’t call to see if Blue Streak had opened, as they were re-tracking it. I probably should have just stopped. I did get to my hotel near Pittsburgh around 4:30. Craig and kids were at Kennywood and they said it was packed, Phantom was down, and so I decided to wait till Sunday morning to go instead. I went to bed around 5 PM and didn’t wake up till the next morning. Side note, the Sheraton in Coraopolis was very nice for $53 a nite.
On Sunday I wanted to go to Kennywood a couple of hours and the head home, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. When I went to get gas, my debit card wouldn’t allow me to make any purchases. I had moved money from my checking to my savings. Nothing recognized the savings account. No ATM, no store, no nothing. And the stupid number on the card was all automated and there was no one to talk to.
Eventually, I had to drive all the way to WV, about 70 miles, to a BB&T ATM, as there were none in Pennsylvania, just to get the correct number to call and get it straightened out. Apparently at some point, BB&T didn’t have my savings account attached to my debit card. I toyed with going back to Kennywood, but I was about 90 minutes away at this point, and I was on my way home. And I really needed some quality Phantom time.
So that was that. I arrived home around 7:30 and uploaded my pictures. I missed out on 2 parks during the weekend, but in the end, I still had a great get away.
My first visit to Kings Island was in 1994 on a disastrous school trip that caused me to miss riding both The Beast and Vortex. My 2nd visit was a decade later. While it was much better, I walked away that evening in pain because I’d walked and stood so much. I’d tried to get back to Kings Island a couple of times, once on a trip in which I ended up in the hospital in Columbus due to kidney stones and a bruised kidney (thanks Magnum). Since I was going to Holiwood Nights I figured this would be the closest I’d be to the park for a while, so why not?
Sunday morning I woke up after everyone else and got ready. Since we all drove separately I left 2nd and was about 30 minutes behind Rob. Thankfully Rob called and texted me and the others about parts of I71 North being closed off for construction. I was able to tell him the detour and a couple of hours later we met up at a park and ride near the park, since Rob didn’t have a Platinum Pass and I did, so that no one had to pay for parking.
The parking lot was quite full and people were pouring in by the minute. I asked the gate attendant where season pass parking was and she told me to go left and I would see it. Eventually I saw the preferred parking lot, so I pulled in and asked if my pass covered that and the gentleman at the gate let me in. We were just a few steps from the entrance. I love Platinum Passes, especially the last 2 weeks with Kings Dominion and Kings Island letting me park so close.
I tended to go to Holiwood Nites about ever other year. I’d went in 2008 for Timberliners debut, but that obviously never happened. But that’s okay. In fact, it was really okay in 2012. This was the best Holiwood Nites ever! For the 2008 and 2010 events weather was an issue. It was so hot. Miserably hot. In fact so hot that I spent most of the day on Saturday both years in the water park and then taking a nap before dinner. None of that this time, though!
With my job I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go so I never made rooming or flying arrangements since the skilled nursing facility I worked at was in the window for it’s yearly state survey, and I am not allowed to be off during that time. Instead I decided that if I go I would drive, and come up with sleeping arrangements later. The week before the event I messaged Bryan Bird to ask if I could potentially sleep in my car at his cabin and use the shower there, which he was fine with since I knew mostly everyone in the cabin already.
Since there was no survey the week of the event I left from my job on Thursday evening to my parent’s house for the nite. I left later than I had wanted to on Friday morning because I stopped by my old job and was there for quite a bit talking, but when I did leave it was raining outside and I had hoped that this wouldn’t cause me any major delays.