Midwest 2021 Day 3

Silver Dollar City | Photos | Videos


May 31, 2021
Branson MO

This was the day I was most excited about for the entire trip. I’d always wanted to go to Silver Dollar City. Many people say it is better than Dollywood, and I love Dollywood. Since they’re both Herschend properties, I was excited, to say the least. I woke up early and headed to Walmart to buy a tooth brush since I’d forgotten to bring mine, and I was making due with mouth wash, but no more. I also picked up another SD Card, and this one had no issues. But not before I went to a breakfast place in Branson, though not much was opened on Memorial Day. The eggs benedict was good, service was fast, and I was finished quickly.

SDC wasn’t very far from where I stayed. I drove a little through Branson, which felt like if Pigeon Forge & Asheville had a baby, and then over by the park. But I was super early. So I drove around by the lake before going back to the park. Imagine my surprise when I found out parking was free! I parked in an open spot near the exit and headed down to the tram that was soon to leave, all with coasters dotting the background.

I had purchased the Trail Blazer Extra pass that allowed unlimited resides on select popular rides, and one ride on the new rapids ride without waiting long. We arrived at the front plaza an already I loved that it was quaint and felt small and enclosed. I picked up my ticket and lanyard, made a quick restroom stop, and then headed over in to the park. It was very early, but I was able to head over to the rope that would eventually lead me to my first ride. The park was just absolutely beautiful. Very wooded walkways. I loved it.

Once they performed the pledge of allegiance and star spangled banner, the ropes dropped and I headed down the rather large hill towards my first coaster of the day…

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Atlanta 2021

Atlanta | Photos | Videos


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.

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Copperhead Strike Debut 2019

Copperhead.pngCarowinds | Photos | Videos


March 22-23, 2019
Charlotte NC
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.

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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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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 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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