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Gazza

USA 2015 Coaster Trip

18 posts in this topic

So, I’ve just returned home from a 3 week stint over in the US, and naturally did a few theme parks.

The first week I spent with family in California, but for now I’ll jump ahead to the east coast part of my trip since im a bit sick of CA.

I flew into Richmond, VA from LAX. Crossing the US is a ballache. You say leave at 7am west coast time, and arrive at 4pm East Coast time. We’re very lucky to have direct flights between most cities in Aus!

Virginia is quite pretty. Very leafy, and it was a nice hour drive to Willamsburg. I checked into my hotel, stopped off at an outlet center to get a jacket, then pressed onto Norfolk (Another hour away), partly because I wanted to see the place, partly because to get there you get to go across a “Bridge Tunnel” which sounded like the coolest thing ever. Basically it’s a long causeway, with an artificial island in the middle that the road drops through, and into an underwater tunnel. It then rises up through a second island.

Norfolk was a bit dead on a Thursday night, so I had a bar meal at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Naively I forgot how much food you got, and didn’t manage to finish more than half.

So first big park I visited….Busch Gardens. One that has been on my park bucket list for a long time because of its impressive coasters and excellent theming.

Unfortunately for me it was a cold (15C), Drizzly, and I had a bit of a cough, but still managed to have a great day. I got to the park bright and early, and ended up being one of the first in.

17892369695_5ce15e48fb_c.jpg20150501_093755 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Overall, it’s a beautiful park, very tastefully themed, and better looking than the one in Tampa (Which is already pretty good) The entrance sequence is very nice too. From the Car Park you walk down a winding, sloping path through some woods to the turnstiles, and into an English main street with phone boxes, a double decker bus and UK flag bunting as far as the eye can see.

17271823803_828595a48f_c.jpg20150501_155902 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Initially I planned to turn left and hot foot it to the newly opened, week old Tempesto, but the park does the whole staged opening thing, and at this point the only thing open was Loch Ness Monster.

Basically, its an old school arrow looping coaster, with two loops that interlock, like links on a chain. As far as Arrows go, this is one of the excellent old smooth ones. You drop off into a river valley, up around a U turn, then down again through the first loop. After this you head up again, and into a feature I had no idea about, a triple downhill helix in a tunnel (Very RCT) A second short lift hill brings you up to one final drop into the 2nd loop, and back to the station. The queue had some nice theming too, such as diving bells and exploration equipment based around the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster, and a station that resembles a Scottish Loch Castle.

17706076489_5a34579036_c.jpg20150501_145013 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17706102919_680145d941_c.jpg20150501_125434 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17866022906_077a508ce6_c.jpg20150501_095118 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Next up was Griffon, which is at the far end of a rather nice French themed area. Definitely tops Griffon and Sheikra for me in terms of the B&M Dive Machines….For extra fun, ride in the far outside seat. What stood out to me is how well the ride is integrated with the surroundings, with plenty of walkways to view the ride from any angle, and a first drop that plunges into a depression in the ground with an iron bridge over the top.

Anyway, snagged the front row. A turn lift hill, and another turn leads to you to the edge of the first drop. You’re held for a second before plunging down…A cool thing to do is to curl your arms and legs back and pretend your skydiving. Overall, I reckon I prefer pure uncontrolled vertical drops compared to the “steeper than vertical” ones seen on many newer rides. Just feels more natural and has a greater sense of a continuous descent. Anyway…at the bottom of the drop you woosh under the bridge, up into an immellman, before a turn brings you up to the mid course brakes. What follows is a 2nd near vertical drop down a hillside (No brakes), another immelmann, rise, and then a section where you skim across a lake with scoops on the train catching the water and throwing it up behind the train. A couple more turns and the ride is over. Overall, ver y re-ridable, and probably my favourite coaster in the park.

17704515968_b63e3d210b_c.jpg20150501_134618 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17892259555_91e145f954_c.jpg20150501_175939 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17704751370_ee0d13e7cc_c.jpg20150501_144721 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17704513208_cbf6b8c98d_c.jpg20150501_141101 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Working around further, I skipped the French Canadian themed section, and crossed a wooden bridge into the Swiss themed area. Again, it looked gorgeous, and the parks huge inverted coaster, Alpengeist wraps over and under the Bridge.

The queue even looks nice, with beautifully detailed wooden walkways leading to a Ski Chalet themed loading station, with nice touches like blackboards with concerning ski reports, ski equipment and so on.

Again, I took front row, which probably wasn’t the best idea since the drizzle was cold and stung your face a bit. Anyway…A huge lift hill takes you up to nearly 60m, and the spiralling first drop picks up tremendous speed. From there are four very large inversions, an Imellman, loop, and cobra roll. Some nifty thematic touches like a ski jump at the bottom of the immellman, and a ski hut with skis crashed into it that the train belts through. After the cobra roll the track twists and turns upwards rapidly into the midcourse brakes, before you drop down into a Zero G Roll, and a corkscrew. The final trick is a forceful helix, dug into a trench with fake snow, making the train feel like it’s surrounded on all sides. One of my top inverted coasters (Up there with Nemesis and Banshee)…It just feels like a blur.

17892261665_72a20f3997_c.jpg20150501_173127 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17706090329_50ff65b61a_c.jpg20150501_141121 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17892878501_0312d41f41_c.jpg20150501_132750 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

17704537888_1d4c774331_c.jpg20150501_102902 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

It was coming close to the time when the Italian section was ready to open, so I hurried back around to Tempesto, figuring novelty and low capacity would mean long lines.

I’ve previously ridden one of these premier sky rocket loop coasters at SF Discovery Kingdom, and the ride experience is still pretty solid (Despite some shortcomings)….Essentially you lauch forwards up a bit of vertical track, fall backwards and launch again in reverse up a second vertical bit of track, launch a 3rd time all the way up the vertical, to the top, trough a barrel roll, then drop down, up into a non inverting loop, and then come back to the station. It’s all quite quick, but still feels quite complete. The ride feels a little confusing since you keep going back and forth and covering different bits of the track each time (More complicated than say Buzzsaw, where the loop is pretty predictable)

I had some concerns this coaster would look a bit tacky at Busch, but the theming is passable…Basically designed to look like a travelling circus stunt show. You walk in through a wooden loop de loop, and the station is themed with mock stage facades (Colourful on the front, plywood on the back with set numbers)

I though the ride experience was a bit poorer than the one in California. The trains are a contortionist act to board a the best of times, but Busch went and installed these stupid “Comfort Straps” that come over your shoulder (Imagine a soft version of the Intamin accelerator harnesses)

But the’re pointless, they never take your weight apart from half a second as you go down the vertical drop, and they just seem like they slow down loading on what is already a challenging ride for a park this big. I boarded with minimal wait, and they have 4 staff checking restraints. I liked their solution for loose items too…Just have a tub of bum bags at the entrance. You just wear your belongings during the ride, and then return the bum bag on the way out.


Right next door is Apollos Chariot, the coaster where Fabio got splattered in the face by a goose. Wasn’t taken by it. The other B&M hypers I’ve done are better. It had several big hills, and you didn’t even float out of your seat. The small hills on the return trip had a tiny bit of airtime, but overall it was disappointing for someone rasied on the likes of Superman Escape and its attempts to eject you from your seat. First ride was in back. I tried again in the front, and it was a tad better, but still just an “okay” ride.

https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7707/17892280185_674601d299_c.jpg20150501_152308 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Continuing around was Verbolten, which as the day went on seemed like the most popular ride in the park. The story I didn’t quite follow, but it seemed to be themed around a Car rental place for tours through the German Black Forest, but there was a sub narrative about some guy deliberately making the forest grow more wild so people would get lost/entangled, so he could steal their stuff. Think blair witch project, with night vision CCTV in different parts of the forest with confused people in view begging for help.

The station looked like a disorderly mechanics workshop and you load into trains themed like classic cars. From the station you drop out under gravity through a few sweeping turns, towards a tunnel entrance to the indoor section (Which looked a bit shit because it was just a themed piece of wall, on columns, sitting in front of a giant show building….Why did they even bother?)

Anyway, you roll straight onto the launch and are quickly boosted uphill inside, where you do several fast turns in the dark, with blacklight 2d trees and so forth around the track. You are brought to a stop, before continuing around a dropping u turn, and then stopping a second time. Red eyes of wolves light up around the train out of the darkness, and then all of a sudden the whole section of track the train is parked on drops down several meters and joins up with a track on the bottom level. You then roll forwards out of the building, down a small drop and onto a second launch. This gives you enough juice to make it to the high point of the ride….An elevated wooden bridge that has begun to collapse…Cue the howling wind and creaking timber sound effects.

The train drops off the end down a substantial drop towards the river, and then a few more quick turns lead to the brakes.

Overall, a pretty solid coaster, though the pacing feels a bit stop start.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8756/17706069619_706a143d3e_c.jpg20150501_150148 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5348/17704531278_f8cb778cf8_c.jpg20150501_112726 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5350/17892892321_aa4822a636_c.jpg20150501_111413 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7734/17271806073_8da0a91182_c.jpg20150501_111623 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Pressing further into the park is the Oktoberfest section, which includes Mach Tower, a large gyro drop type ride (Built by Moser rather than Intamin)…It’s themed to a maypole.

The ride experience wasn’t quite as refined as Intamins…It hits the brakes pretty hard, and the brakes are quite high up the tower compared to most drop rides. Once was enough.

https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7676/17704492968_3b405be081_c.jpg20150501_145725 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Further on in the German section is Curse of Darkastle, a motion base 4D dark ride in a similar vein to Spiderman, Transformers etc. The exterior is really well done.A foreboding grey castle with the queue winding through courtyards, through loggias etc…Really felt like the Harry Potter castle at a smaller scale. Eventually you reach the preshow room, which tells the story of a Baron that went all strange and locked himself up in his castle, and was responsible for the disappearance of several visitors and family members to his castle.

This opens up into the last bit of the queue/boarding area, themed like the castle stables, where you board a horseless “golden sleigh”.

After a bit of a delay due to a breakdown I was on within about 10 minutes.

Initially I had some reservations about this…It uses a cheaper version of the motion base system, using air bags (Think like when you board a bus and they lower the front end to allow disabled people to board) rather than hydraulics. But this turned out to be unfounded. The ride movement was very fluid, and the cars could spin and move along quite nimbly.

The ride did lack some of the polish of the Universal rides in terms of set design and the forced perspective on the 3D screens.

Anyway, the ride basically runs you around the castle, with the baron tormenting you at every turn…Think of stuff like being bombarded with arrows and knives, a section where he whips up a whirlwind and throws a harp at you (Cue the wind effects). One of my favourite scenes was where you get lifted up to the “second floor” (all at ground level) with some movement recreating the levitation effect, and then you prompty back away and fall down a spiral staircase (With the ride car at a heavy tilt, bouncing down the steps and skidding off the bottom, with the whole set built at a tilt to make it feel convincing.

The final sequence of the ride has you high above the castle being tossed around in the air with giant curved screens, with the sets actually built sideways to give the impression you are looking down vertically.

Like all these rides, theres a simulated freefall drop where you crash into the dungeons. You make your escape outside the walls of the castle (Where the Baron has no powers)….at the last moment he tries to grab you, but explodes into ice (Cue the water spray effects)

Great ride, I want one here in Australia, just because the ride movements are so much fun.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5348/17889343662_a036bc1b84_c.jpg20150501_113216 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7711/17706008149_0fb247d9fb_c.jpg20150501_190437 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7760/17271905873_444d1a69e4_c.jpg20150501_113512 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

By this point it was lunch time so I settled down out of the cold in Festhaus…Basically a giant beer tent with long tables you can watch a show at, which was a pretty fun production about a bunch of Bavarians competing to produce the best brew. Lots of choreographed dancing and barrel tossing between them.

I had german potatoes (basically like baked potato slices that had been soaked in vinegar), red cabbage, roast chicken…and joy of joys…..A hot chocolate.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5467/17866002526_a39ecfb4e8_c.jpg20150501_121857 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

With lunch done, and the sun at its highest point in the sky I did a lap around the skyway, which was interesting because it had a triangular, one way layout, rather than the up and back layout like most. I did a lap on the train to take photos and chatted to an employee that was considering studying in Australia (No, the spiders aren’t that bad….no, don’t study in Adelaide etc etc)

After my lap on the train I ducked into the Sesame St Forest of Fun to take a lap on Grovers Alpine Express, which had surprisingly few kids riding. A pretty short kids coaster, and you only get one lap.

https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7780/17271826543_312c8d58af_c.jpg20150501_155244 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Just up a tad further is Escape From Pompeii. This is one of the best rides in the park. Its one of those shoot the chutes type rides, where you ride in a 20 person boat, go up a conveyor, along a high section, and then down a big drop that throws up a tidal wave of water when you splash down. Fortunatley this one wasn’t too wet, nobody was around the coin operated spray guns, so I escaped unscathed. Anyway, what made this ride mint is the thematic execution. The queue wanders past an archaeological dig to the station. A slow conveyor takes you the top section which is enclosed inside some roman buildings. Things start off with a few hanging lights shaking and signs warning of tremors. Theres also a nice classical music sound track. Suddenly a big wooden beam falls above you. In the next room, themed like a roman temple with columns and statues erupts in flames. The music becomes more dramatic. The flames spread, the water by the boat catches alight. A conveyor under the water boosts the boat along. You continue to the next room and the flames spread in sequence up the walls, and onto the ceiling (Which looked really cool because it was a layer of gas and it looked all bubbly underneath)

You escape the flames, a huge 4m tall statue tips across the course. With onee final turn and the music reaching a crescendo a set of doors open and you go down the drop. Really Really good, and it brought back memories of Bermuda Triangle at Sea World.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8887/17889265812_1bcc5bbf9f_c.jpg20150501_154844 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5444/17269729884_2c1af50962_c.jpg20150501_160606 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

For the remainder of the day I lapped around the park and did lots of re rides on the coasters and Darkastle. Most were short waits, except for Verbolten which seemed to be about 30 mins.

I wouldn’t have minded trying the Roman Rapids, but apparently it doesn’t open in cold weather, which was a shame because it looked really cool, with lots of statues and archways and the like.

I tried getting all 3 story options on Verbolten, but only managed to get the wolves again, and the one where the spirit of the forest appears in the trees.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8830/17892289445_f8d7823b7a_c.jpg20150501_151557 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

As for the rest of the park…Some beautifully themed areas, particularly the Irish themed area (With the hilariously named Grogans Pub) and this Leonardo DaVinci themed area where there were flat rides themed around different inventions, set in pleasant gardens. Lots of cool details around too, like Roman graffiti in the Italian area.

I liked how tastefully everything was done. Nothing loud and brash. Nothing looked out of place or out of theme.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5468/17269790854_2fa89c9461_c.jpg20150501_144054 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8798/17269793364_bb8000243f_c.jpg20150501_143959 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5469/17889240852_ccde7d4d4d_z.jpg20150501_191717 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7764/17706048139_348b9a1db2_c.jpg20150501_151029 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7658/17704725200_402c32cdeb_c.jpg20150501_150615 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5345/17892305965_6dbc313500_c.jpg20150501_150553 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8794/17706068159_071880f058_c.jpg20150501_150444 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

As the day drew to a close the weather eased up a bit, so the coaster rides were more enjoyable without raindrops hitting your face like needles, so hung around Griffon and Alpengeist doing lots of re-rides.

Right at the end of the day the clouds broke for the first time. It sounds Cliché but it made for a pretty awesome final ride on Griffon, with orange light from the sunset and beams of light breaking through over the hilly horizon in direct view as everyone hung over the first drop.

As I exited I did a last sneaky ride on Loch Ness Monster in the back seat, which wasn’t quite as smooth.

So yeah, everyone should aim to visit this place at some point.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8788/17704504258_7d519005fb_c.jpg20150501_142356 by Gavin Seipelt, on Flickr

Edited by Gazza

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Sounds like a great trip!

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is definitely on my theme park bucket list for many reasons, and I think your photography really makes me eager to visit one day. It's good to hear that Loch Ness is still smooth, especially considering that state of every other Arrow I've ridden.

One quick question though: I've heard the Alpengeist might be the roughest of all the B&M inverts. Did you think it was that rough, considering you've been on a bunch of others?

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This TR will be posted on another site so I've uploaded on flickr.

That said, a more extensive collection of pics will be uploaded into the Parkz galleries in the coming days anyway (As I always do) so not sure what you're complaining about?

Edited by Gazza

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i'd had the same thought re: photosharing sites linked in. I immediately remembered that you would always upload to the Parkz gallery - but I guess reanimated's point is that the principle of hotlinking remains: if your flickr account, or the site ever changes links, or is deactivated, all the images in the above TR will be dead - precisely what Richard wants to avoid.

Perhaps once they're uploaded to Parkz, you could edit the post with a link to each respective gallery?

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The next day was a Saturday.

The night before I drove to my hotel just north of Richmond in Ashland, which put me quite close to Kings Dominion.

Whenever you seem like you might expect a quiet day at a US park there is inevitably hordes of school kids in school band T shirts staging an invasion. Not a problem in the end since queues were mostly pretty short. The day opened with them playing the US national anthem. I always feel so self concious during it. Protocol is that people from other countries should just stand respectfully and dont have to put their hand on their heart, but I always feel like people must think I'm some disrepectful pleb because I'm the only one not doing it....FWP.

I had no platinum pass this time, so had to hang around in International street whilst the privileged got rides on Volcano and Intimidator 305. It's quite a nice main street compared to the other CF parks I've visted, lots of trees, well maintained buildings, flower beds and the like.

It wasn’t all bad though waiting, the park is nice enough to open the Eiffel Tower early, so prior to the coasters opening I went up and got photos of the park and scoped the place out.

10am rolled around, and I hot footed it to Volcano knowing that it was low capacity. It is a launched Intamin inverted coaster. The theming looks nice enough, winding through some caves at the base of the Volcano and through a thatched roof queuing area. I waited for front row, which took a bit longer than I’d hoped since they seemed to take a while to check trains, and the first train always seemed to make it back before they were even halfway checking the second train.

As for the ride, you make a left out of the station straight into a fairly good LIM launch through the base of the volcano. You then make a wide sweeping U turn out in the open out the back, and then speed onto a second launch which pushes you even faster. The track punches straight into the middle of the volcano, turns vertically, then pops out of the top of the volcano and does this weird upside down quarter loop + corkscrew thing to manoeuvre out. From there you work down in a steady spiral around the outside of the volcano alternating between U turns and barrel rolls. After the 3rd roll you go down a final big drop into the heart of the volcano….And hit the brakes. To me that final bit is a huge missed opportunity. Surely hiding a loop or something inside the Volcano would be a great surprise and the perfect finale. Anyway, I really liked this one, was going to re-ride straight away, but the whole queue house had filled in the time I had waited for front row, so I moved on. I went to buy one of those unlimited ride photo email packages, but couldn’t because they “didn’t have any cards”…This was about 15 mins after opening remember.

The next ride I attempted was right next door….Avalanche, but operations had been a bit hopeless and hadn’t gotten the call to say they were clear to open for the day, so after wasting 10 minutes I cut my losses and moved on.

This wasn’t a problem, I went straight to Intimidator 305, which had an empty queue, so wandered over to the front row again. To be clear, this ride has the worst theming ever…Its themed around a dead NASCAR driver, and has country music playing in the queue. Luckily a top class ride makes up for it.

A speedy cable lift brings you up to a height of 90m and pitches you over an insanely steep first drop which flings you out of your seat. From there is a really long sustained low to the ground turn with forces so strong that your vision begins to go grey, and doesn’t get back to normal till you are heading upwards into a powerful airtime hill. From there is a whole series of fast turns and transitions…I was initially worried about this because I’d found the snappy transitions on Maverick unpleasant due to the neck cutting and the need to anticipate, but the soft padded “vest” harnesses on this one avoided that, so it was really cool. Theres a second smaller airtime hill, but why did they put the mag brakes on the first half of the hill? Why not put it after the crest so you still get air…Not enough air on the second one. Plenty more fast turns on the latter part of the ride too, you can barely keep your head up from the forces and the wind, resulting in an awful on ride photo.

I got straight back on and tried the back row, which I liked even better because of the air you’d get on the first drop.
Overall, awesome ride, no the intensity wasn't too much for me, yes it's better than Millenium force, yes, it should have had a couple more airtime hills instead of turns.

I purchased my ride photo package here instead.

I went back to Avalanche, which was running again. I love Mack bobsled coasters (The bumpy Intamin ones can go to hell) . Last time I went on one was at Blackpool in 2007, and this was just as fun, if not better. They feel a bit out of control and have fun transitions between the turns.

Hanging around this side of the park, I went on Flight of Fear, which is an indoor coaster with an Alien/Area 51 theme where you launch into a twisted mess of track with 4 inversions and lots of turns in the dark. I’d been on the one at KI the previous year. That one had better theming (Bigger hangar room with more details and videos telling the story line) whilst this one ran a bit better. Unfortunately, it had the same problem of having a light on inside the building, which was enough to make all the track visible. They really need to black it out properly like Space Mountain in CA and have tiny stars of light, because in its current form the enclosing building just does nothing. Fun coaster though!

I pressed on to Backlot Stunt coaster (So now I’ve ridden all 3)….Ostensibly, it’s a family coaster with an action movie theme, where you do stereotypical stuff like slalom around cop cars, dive into tunnels, go through a oil refinery that blows up (The fire effects were working which was a bonus) with a grand finale where you go down a small drop into an LA style aqueduct, (The splashdown spray at the end was working too). My thoughts are the same as the rest. Fun little coaster, and I like the upwards spiral, but the theming looks a bit too vague and incomplete in parts that the sense is lost.

Anaconda was up next, which is an Arrow multi looper set over a lake, featuring a loop, sidewinder, and two corkcrews. Unfortunately not smooth like the one I had ridden the previous day, though the layout was a bit more twisted, particularly after the mid course brakes where you do this weird cloverleaf shaped set of turns that looks impossibly tight and steep for the trains. There’s also a nifty feature where the first drop goes into a concrete underwater tunnel through the lake, and a fountain fires off in sync with the train as it comes out of the tunnel. Looks cool, but it’s a shame the only place you can see it well is from the last bit of the queue….Why go to the engineering expense of the underwater tunnel if general guests can’t stand and watch?

I liked Intimidator so much that I went back and did a few more rides without a queue before moving on to pick up the other coasters.

Next was the hilariously named Dominator, a B&M floorless coaster. Operations were a bit hopeless and trains were going out with 8 or more seats empty regularly…Sorely needs a grouper, or a single rider line or something, because when members of the GP around you are commenting on this inefficiency, unprompted, you’ve got a problem. Again, I waited for front row, but since I was single I just took a bit of initiative and asked people who looked like groups of 3 if I could join…The others waiting didn’t mind at all which was nice.

The coaster itself is really cool, because it has lots of “in between” track to flesh out the ride, compared to other B&M multi loopers where one inversion leads onto the next. Anyway, from the first drop is a massive loop, a low to the ground turn, overbank and cobra roll taken at classic B&M pace. The track curves up to the MCBR, then drops down again into a couple of large interlocking corkscrews, and a sequence of low to the ground turns and S bends to the brakes.
I think as far as floorless coasters go this is one of the best ones out there, because of its pacing and unique layout….No zero g roll though <///3.

I was back in the middle of the main street after Dominator. Lunch was Panda Express. As I kept finding in this part of the US, staff serving me would often say “You have an accent, where are you from?”, but because I can be a prick my standard response became “go on, have a guess mate”, and then laugh at them inside when they’d say stuff like “Scottish” or “South African” . Anyway I love panda express, and orange chicken, and have major withdraws at home because chinese restaurants here only seem to do lemon chicken.

So I wandered up the street more after lunch and found myself at Shockwave, a Togo Standup like the one I had ridden last year at CW. I liked this one too, because the layout does irresponsible things like banking and heavily and having tiny airtime pops that make your feet come off the floor. Again, some more hopeless operations that you could overhear members of the GP commenting on. Basicaly, the ride ops kept mucking around singing songs, getting guests to cheer, singing happy birthdays etc etc to people on the train, and they just kept doing this, even though the checks were done and the loaders were waiting for the all clear. Now, I’m all for ops being enthusiastic, but you don’t actually waste time like this when people are waiting to board, and stacked on the brake run. So I ended up waiting 30 mins to just because the ride ops liked the sound of their own voice and were so non focused. Guests were saying “come on, why don’t they just start the ride!”.

With that out of the way I did Drop Tower. What makes this one unique is that it has an enormous, non rotating ring of seats around the tower that holds 56, which puts rides like Giant Drop and Lex Luthor with their capacity of 16 to shame….. Certainly keeps the capacity high though checking takes a while. As far as drops go it’s much of a muchness, which is not a bad thing because I always do Intamin drop rides.

Next I wandered over to Hurler, which broke down as soon as I’d walked through the long queue and gotten to the station >_>

I took that as a sign to take a break from the rides for half an hour or so, and take some photos.

I then tried Rebel Yell, this marked the first missed coaster of the trip since only half of it was open. Like its brother, Racer at KI it’s a good ride because it goes in a straight line, which the trains can deal with, so lots of fun little pops of air, though the lack of racing means it lost that sense of camaraderie that made Racer (And Grand National etc) really special.

Riccochet was a fairly short wait, one of those larger model wild mouses with the big drop at the start. Enjoyable, though nothing particularly memorable about it.

Grizzly I initially struggled to find, turns out you have to go through a gift shop for Dinosaurs Alive to get to the entrance. I thought it was going to be the same layout as the one at CGA, and the view from a distance seemed to suggest that, but it had extra hills and a bit twistier in part, and it ran a bit better too. Special mention has to go out to the poorly conceived ramp at the exit…Why not make it ramp all the way to eliminate the need for a wheelchair lift to the station :S

Rebel Yell was back open and a POS. Just really rough and unenjoyable, and the station just looked ugly and uninspired. Good laterals though.

It was getting late afternoon by this point so I went on the Americana ferris wheel and just asked another group if I could go with them because I was a single rider (This is the situation where I’ll thicken my accent a bit and throw in some colloquialisms to break the ice)
Umm…it had seatbelts that you could just undo if you wanted anyway….Why???? But the view of Rebel Yell and the water park was nice.

Woodstock Express was the last coaster I had to pick up.

Woodstock express was probably the best of the kiddy woodies I’ve ridden, mostly due to the fact it had been recently retracked so was running quite well. A simple figure 8 with a few hills, but had a bit of kick and did the job well.

Nearby was Flying Ace, a flat ride I’ve never been on before. It’s a chance Aviator, The ride spins and rises up, and you sit in pairs on seats suspended by cables, with rudders either side of you that you can steer by way of a control lever between the two seats. Essentially it could be though of as a really toned down version of a Flying Scooters, though you could make the thing swing a bit by applying similar methods that you do on scooters and smoothly alternating directions. My car was still swinging a bit as the ride came down and to a stop, causing it to scrape on the ground :/

I was initially going to skip it because the other ones of this ride at other CF parks I'd ridden had been crap, but Boo Blasters on Boo Hill had no line so gave it a go. What I had disliked about the other versions of this ride is that the guns seemed stupidly hard to aim and register targets compared to the other shooters I’ve ridden. Made it actually a bit more fun, and resulted in an ORP of me looking quite serious. The scenes are all just blacklight 2D cutouts and so forth, which is fine for a cartoony kids ride.

The final unique ride of the day was Firefall, a Huss floorless top spin with a temple theme, and a water feature out the front with fire and fountains, which made the thing look really special. The sun was setting too, making the flames look extra good. It ran a decent program with sequences of 4 or so flips in a row, and you didn’t get wet which was nice.

With everything done I wanted to do I did a reride on Dominator in the back, a reride of Volcano in the back, a lap on Avalanche, and lots and lots of rides with minimal wait on Intimidator through to closing time at 10pm.

As for my thoughts on the park, certainly has a decent variety of coasters…..Several woodies, several launched coasters, plus a few world class ones like Intimidator and Dominator, and I had a pretty good day with lots of rides. The disorganisation at a couple of places and questionable operations on a couple of rides were the only downers.

As for what I'd do to the place? Possibly a proper dark ride like what SF are starting to do? A steel family coaster? Some sort of more modern looping coaster like a Wing Rider? Hard to say because the place ticks most boxes....Even the closed water park looked really good, and I would have gone in had it been open.

Edited by Gazza

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The next park on my itinerary wasn’t in my original plans. Because I was visiting in May, parks are only open on weekends..But as parks progressively released their 2015 schedules it turned out many were open on Fridays. This meant I could do BGW on the Friday, KD on a Saturday, and Six Flags America on a Sunday.

As for the park, it does get a bad rap for being a bit neglected among the SF parks (Which themselves can be pretty neglected to begin with), but to be honest I did think it was OK. The grounds and buildings do look a bit run down in parts, and it probably has the biggest overload of advertising of any SF park, it also suffers from a weird layout with lots of long dead ends . The coaster line-up was on par with most other regional US parks of similar size, and I was surprised to find there were even a couple of consistent themed areas.  And the staff were fine too.

The best way to think of it is say what Dreamworld was like before they started fixing the place up over the past couple of years, but just a bit bigger, and with better rides.

I could only stay in the park for about 4 hours due to a bit of stupidity on my part which meant I had to cut my day short, but that was enough time to do virtually everything I wanted. Nice sunny weather too.

Upon arrival you are STUNG for parking, $25.

Mate, I’ll pay that for an undercover multi deck car park, but at SFA its shite, with worn bitumen with weeds growing through the cracks. I purchased my season pass there prior to opening, and they don’t refund the parking fee for some reason.

Anyway, I headed in and went straight to Superman: Ride of Steel. As far as hyper coasters go it’s pretty good. Decent air on the first couple of hills, and some strong air on the final three. Runs a bit better than the one at Darien Lake I reckon.  I do think the two massive helices and long straightaways are overkill, though I guess this was before Intamin invented the overbanked turn to mix things up. I did a few laps because there was no queue.

Next up was Batwing, a Vekoma flying coaster. These are great rides (I liked Firehawk!) once you overlook the fact you have to squint the whole way up the lift hill due to the sun in your eyes. Also, bit of a geek moment…Didn’t realise this one still used the original hydraulic seat tilting system (The ones at the CF parks were converted to use a mechanical lifting system) The layout is a bunch of swooping overbanks, with  an inside loop halfway through (Which isn’t as intense as the B&M pretzel loop despite being tighter). There’s a double inline twist and a helix for good measure.
Did a couple of laps here too before moving on.

I then took a ride on Jokers Jinx, a Premier Spaghetti Bowl where you are launched into a tangle of track with 4 inversions. The inversions are good, but the twists and turns are a bit like riding a Galaxi really. I preferred this one to the one at KD I had ridden the day before….Maybe it’s the sheer scale of the structure and the visuals (The semi lit indoor track of Flight of Fear is neither fish nor fowl) Also, it doesn’t have an MCBR that slows the train down early, instead it’s just a straight bit of track you cruise through. Oh, and the Joker painting in the station is laughably bad.

While I was in the area I tried out Penguins Blizzard River, which is my first encounter with one of those Whitewater West family spinning rapids slides. Basically it’s a budget version of a normal river rapids. You ride in circular rafts down a course with several spirals. Theres rubber pads on the slide that the bottom of the raft grips on, causing it to keep spinning in one direction till everything is just a blur….So basically instead of riding up on the walls like a normal family raft, it just aims to make a certain percentage of guests spew. It’s mostly a dry slide, save for a small overhead mister at the end, and some drips from when you pass under higher sections of the slide.

Next up was Apocalypse. This is the first B&M (Excuse the pun) I haven’t wanted to ride again. Runs as badly as a typical SLC, particularly in the latter half where all the twists and turns are. For those who don’t know, it’s a stand up coaster with a single loop and a single corkscrew.
The theming looks cool, basically like a warzone with crashed planes and car shells, and a section where you walk through a shipping container.

Nearby was Roar, an older GCI running PTC trains. I was expecting to get beaten up on this one like you do on Gwazi, but it actually ran pretty well! A typically GCI confusing layout, but with a couple of airtime hills thrown in too. Would have come back for a re-ride if I had more time.

Continuing around I went to Mind Eraser, a suspended looping coaster. Got as far as sitting in the seats with harnesses checked, then the ride broke down, so I left.

Nearby was Renegade Rapids, which was pretty fun. Good rough water sections, but it didn’t have those stupid waves that saturate you. Thankfully, nobody was manning the coin operated water geysers either….There was one guy hanging around them looking suss, but he turned out to be just using the area as a quiet corner to talk on his phone.

Mind eraser was still broken, so I set about getting on the remaining coasters.

First up was the Great Chase, a Zamperla kiddy coaster…tick.

Next was the longest wait of the day, Ragin’ Cajun, a Zamperla Spinning coaster. I got seated by myself, and it just spun like crazy!

I wouldn’t have minded having a go at the Voodoo Drop, a small intamin drop tower similar in size to the one at Rainbows end (Which I missed too!), but time was too limited.

So, it was straight onto the Wild One. Again, the combination of being an old woodie, and PTC trains meant I was expecting a rough ride, but again, not too bad, and a few pops of air on the way through with all the hills.

I headed back to Mind Eraser, took the first available row, wedged my head into a corner of the seat, put up with the ride for the couple of minutes that it goes for, and headed for the exit.

Pics are here:

http://parkz.com.au/parks/US/Upper_Marlboro/Six_Flags_America/photos

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There was one guy hanging around them looking suss, but he turned out to be just using the area as a quiet corner to talk on his phone.

​Sounds like it was alright - any idea the age of the PTC trains out there?

 

I've just got this image of this guy standing near the water cannons in a trench coat...

bs0yimjcbucin6mz1xv6.jpg

and Gazza's like this:

die-hard-bruce-willis-movie-still-1988.p

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Time to get back into this.

 

Pics http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Hershey/Hersheypark/photos/sort/oldest

After a congested drive out of DC on Thursday afternoon, which was slow right up to Frederick, and passing through the rusty city of Harrisburg I arrived in Hershey, Pennsylvania, my destination; Hersheypark.

The park was closed that day of course, and there was still some light left, so I parked my car and went for a wander around the outside of the park to get some photos….Seeing rides like Skyrush, Lightning Racer, Storm Runner and Great Bear certainly had me pumped up for the next day. There was a Wendy’s opposite one of the corners of the park, so a quick stop for dinner, then I headed back to my car the and to my hotel  for the night.

The next morning I was one of the first ones into the car park. Again, with some time to spare I walked around the rest of the perimeter and got pics of Fahrenheit and Wildcat.

My hopes of a super quiet day were dashed when I spotted the “Physics Day” sign at the front gate. Turned out to be mostly unfounded, with no particularly unbearable queues (Certainly nothing I couldn’t avoid). Ended up doing Great Bear, Storm Runner, Fahrenheit twice each, 3 laps in Lightning Racer and the rest of the coasters once, plus a ton of rides on Skyrush, and a few other rides too.

So, when the gates opened I took a right past the stroller rental place, which leads onto a hidden public pathway between Comet and Spring Creek, and jogged straight to Skyrush.

This ride is mint. It really is one of the best coasters out there, but be prepared for intensity. I can see where people are coming from about the harnesses…They press on your legs more than the lap bar on Arkham Asylum, but the airtime of the ride makes it harsher.But that said, it didn’t bother me…Dunno, do your squats and your legs should cope lol. The ride is merciless, and it really feels like the train is dragging you along kicking and screaming. Particularly on parts like the Stengel dive and the twisting hill, the train banks and you are pulled down, and flung sideways at the same time.
I did my first ride back row, outside seat. The lift hill hauls you to the top, and you are thrown over the top and into the drop. Like new Texas giant, it has one of those super steep drops where you first start off thinking “woah, this is steep”, and then it gets even steeper and survival instincts kick in and your mind shifts to “holy crap!!!!!”, with the train simultaneously dragging you down and pushing you outwards from your seat. Insane. A couple of airtime hills follow….Imagine like superman escape, but stronger. There’s  that Stengel dive and twisting hill, and then another small hill, a turn, and the final brakes. There’s an  awkward turn that crosses over another coaster, and then you are back at the station. You get some relief from the harnesses, as they are programmed to pop up slightly whilst you are stacked outside the station.
Immediately I went around for another lap in the front middle seats, still just as good, though  a little less aggressive on the twist/Stengel.

Still trying to outrun the crowds I headed across to Fahrenheit. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this one…maybe because Eurofighters have been middle of the road for me, and this looked similar, but again, it was brilliant. Did a front row ride.  The 97 degree drop is cool, but not the star feature. The Norwegian loop was odd…on the way up it randomly banks one way, before twisting the other into the actual inversion. The cobra roll was run of the mill, the corkscrews had a nice bit of snap to them, but the coolest bit was this powerful little airtime hill right at the end.

Would have re-ridden, but the line had built up a bit.

So I pressed on to the back part of the park and mopped up the coasters at that end, starting with the Wild Mouse, because nobody can be bothered queuing for them right? Fairly fun, as always.

Following that was Wildcat. Was worried about this one, since people say its so rough and the retrofitted Millennium Flyers still don’t run well on such an old GCI, but honestly didn’t have a problem with it. Pretty good, and I liked how it had a couple of big hills, which you normally don’t see on most GCIs.

Laff Trakk represented the first missed coaster of the trip. I was a couple of weeks too early unfortunately. I wasn’t too stressed since I’ve been on a couple of the standard layout Maurer spinning coasters before, but still, riding in the dark would have been fun.

Moving on, I did both sides of Lightning Racer. Didn’t think one was better than the other, but the ride overall is fantastic, and one of the best GCIs out there (Up there with Gold Striker), the racing/duelling aspect works really well, with some sections where you are side by side, others where you come at each other head on, and a really cool final sequence where the tracks keep diving over and under each other in a braid. The flashing light that denotes the winning train as  you arrive back in the station is a nice touch.

 

 

I had an early lunch at the Decades burger place near the blocked entrance to the boardwalk. Your burger just comes with a piece of chicken (in my case) and cheese on a roll, and there is a salad bar where you add your pickles, lettuce, onion, tomato, sauces etc (Yes, I’ve learned to really enjoy pickles on burgers these days, surprised so many adults would find the taste of them so offensive :S, they actually aren’t)

There’s a ferris wheel down there too. No single riders, but nothing asking someone else in the queue “can I go with you” in a thick Australian accent can’t fix. Got pics of the Boardwalk area. I think it looked decent as far as water parks go, especially the water play structure, but the slide complex looked very run of the mill, and there were only 6 slides total. They should stuff in a few more types in my opinion.

With that end of the park done I headed around to Storm Runner, and I think I waited 30 mins because the pricks only had one train on. This was really good, but perhaps my Australian bias showing through, but Superman Escape is still the best accelerator in my opinion.

I could sum it up like this…Superman has the better launch, Storm Runner has a better top hat (faster, and more air), and Superman has better airtime (On this, during the course there’s half a moment as you come up into the inline twist). The ride is over very quickly too, because there’s not really any turns etc filling in the gaps between the elements.

So you launch, over a top hat, through an immelmann, down a big drop, up an incline, a bit of air, through a barrel roll, through a second half barrel roll that drops halfway through (Flying snake dive), then an incline where the track banks from side to side, and then it’s done. A good rush, and a great ride, but perhaps it didn’t feel as a complete experience to me as Superman does.

Next to Storm Runner is Sidewinder, a Vekoma Boomerang, normally find these a bit of a chore, not so much because they are rough, but because I find doing 6 tight inversions in such quick succession a bit nauseating for some reason. But my mood brightened a bit when I saw it was running the newer Vekoma trains with the nice soft vest restraints like on Battlestar Galactica. The ride ran  very smoothly, which improved things a fair bit, though it still is a little bit of a sickly ride.

Whilst in the area I did a lap on the Dry Gulch Railroad, hoping to get some shots of rides  from different angles, but it is a little bit pointless in that regard, since it really just goes around Storm Runner, and doesn’t really offer any unique clear views.

Mucking around some more, I did a lap on Cocoa Cruiser since there was no line.... a Zamperla kiddy coaster.

Using up even more time, I went on the monorail, which was sponsored by some health insurance mob which I found funny because they spieled about it and I was just thinking "Bitch, please....Medicare". This was worth a ride, and you get some good shots of a lot of the rides.

The next coaster I did was Trailblazer. Arrow mine trains are dull at the best of times (Well, except for ones like Adventure Express), but this was really quite crap, as in, a roller skater is more thrilling. Just did barely anything, and picked up next to no speed.
Whilst queuing I got to see them add an extra train. A couple of maintenance guys just wander into the ride envelope, the transfer track moves, and they use muscle power to push it off the track towards the lift hill.

Heading back up the hill to the top part of the park I did Reeses Extreme Cup challenge. The guns worked well, but I felt the story line was a bit hokey and unfocused. You went through scenes of  spinning targets with cut outs playing various extreme sports, so it kind of felt like being in a deodorant commercial, or a “summer” Coca Cola ad. There were a pair of animatronic sports announcers throughout the ride too, and Im not sure if they were trying to make them look silly, 80s and fake on purpose as part of the joke. The ride track was a bit like a dragon wagon powered coaster, but it ran at the same speed throughout, and the cars could spin, and at the end there was even a full on bunny hop you just steadily cruised over. Bit of a bleh ride.

I did another bit of timewasting on Skyview, which is a chairlift that goes to a dead end and comes back. It’s really quite short, and just cuts through the middle of Great Bear and over a creek. Again, if you are after some unique views, it’s probably not worth it.

SuperdooperLooper was next, and it was pretty fun, I liked it more than Revolution actually. Ran quite well, had lap bars, and the ride crews were fast. Fairly simple ride, a drop, couple of turns, loop, and then a few more turns and hills till you got to the end. Straightfoward and effective.

I then hit up Comet, the parks old wooden coaster. I finally understood what the term buzz bar meant. I knew it meant a fixed position lap bar, but when they lock they make a buzz sound. As for the ride, decent, middle of the road, and unoffensive sums it up.

I headed up the hill to the Kissing Tower, and got some nice shots of the park. The kiss chocolate shaped windows (Sort of a raindrop shape) work quite well because they bulge out, allowing you to point the camera any way you want, and because they bulge out, people don’t smear their hands on it.

I saw a vending machine selling flavoured milk. America just redeemed itself…. and the chocolate flavour was actually palatable, and not shitty and bitter and waxy like actual Hersheys chocolate is.

The last coaster I had to ride was Great Bear, and it had a bit of a queue. The sign telling single riders to pair up and sit in the middle seats  to reduce wait times for everyone else is a bit galling. No, how about instead of telling people to sit in the crappy seats you put in a single rider line, and speed things up that way.

Anyway, shortly after I joined the queue the ride broke down, and guests were being released from their seats on the first brake run. But this was the only one to go for me, so I just waited, and let others leave the queue, which put me closer and closer to the front, until I was in the front row queue with basically no effort.  Spent the time watching the boats come down on the drop on Coal Cracker (And decided I needed to  add that one to the “to do” list for reasons I’ll get to) Soon enough, maintenance were cycling trains, and I was on.
It’s really quite good, and interacts with the other rides and terrain well. From the first drop you do a helix high in the air, before the main drop, then it’s a loop, immelmann, and zero g roll (all fairly standard B&M stuff and well excecuted), then the remainder of the ride is a few sweeping turns along a creek, with a corkscrew along the way. I think a lot of people whinge how the ride “dies” after the last corkscrew with the turns to the brake run, but really, there are other coasters that faff around far worse during the ride (Eg the mid section on Talon). At least on this you get some nice visuals of the other rides doing their thing under you, which I think is half the fun of hanging below the track.

So, back to Coal Cracker....Normally flumes are samey samey, but this one had a little hump at the bottom of the main drop, and got a bit of air like a nautic jet, so I had to ride. It was pretty cool, and not too wet.

With everything done I used the remaining time till 8pm to get re-rides out, including several laps on Skyrush, another go on Storm Runner and Lightning Racer and Great Bear, and a final ride to end the day on Fahrenheit. Tried sprinting to get a 3rd go on Storm Runner, but missed by about 2 minutes.

Whilst I was up near Lightning Racer again I did the Whip, which is like being on a sofa attached to a pulley, that whips around the  ends of the pulley. Felt a bit neutered though.

Overall thoughts on the place.  Great coaster line up for starters, and up there with the likes of CP and SFMM IMO….3 good Intamins, a decent B&M, and a really fun racing woodie makes 5 solid coasters.

I did think the park looked cheap in parts, with a few carnie flat rides set up in places, and minimal presentation on others.

On the way out I tried the Whoopie Pie place, which is basically two cakes, filled with icing so rich it burns your throat. Had orange cakes with choc icing.

I’d been pining for one all day, but for the road I got one of their lemonades with half a lemon in there and the straw stuck through.

 

 

I thought the place was really weak with its kids offering. No kiddy land to speak of,  and the offering really just consisted of a crapload of “spinning rides that bob up and down”. None of them had queues, and they could safely rip out half of them, and replace them with some more engaging stuff for the younger set.

Operations were better than I expected based on reviews of the place, and queues weren’t really a problem.

Edited by Gazza

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Looks like a great trip.

 

I purchased a platinum pass for Cedar Fair three weeks ago and hit up Cedar Point, Kings Island and Canada's Wonderland. I'm really busy at the moment but you've convinced me to get around to doing a report, especially to let everyone know about The Beast at Kings Island. I'm driving from Calgary to LA in a month and hitting up Playland, Silverwood, Enchanted Forest, Wild Waves, Raging Waters, Discovery Kingdom, California's Great America and the obvious in LA (knotts, sfmm, disney, legoland, universal) so I'll do all the trip reports at that time along with West Edmonton Mall and Calaway Park.

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I've been to Seattle but for some reason couldn't be arsed to go down to Wild Waves (Think I'd done so many parks on that trip the prospect of a GCI and an arrow looper didn't excite me that much)

Interested in hearing what the place is like!

* * * * * * * * * *

The next day was a Saturday, a double park day, where I took in Knoebels, and Dorney Park. Not ideal, but with only 3 days per week with parks open, this was the only way to do it.

 

http://www.parkz.com.au//parks/US/Elysburg/Knoebels/ 

http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Allentown/Dorney_Park/

 

Knoebels (Kuh-no-bells) is in a bit of a remote location, though seems to get decent visitation.

Essentially, it’s a family run amusement park/camping ground with traditional rides and a cult enthusiast following.

The day I was visiting was an unlimited wristband day, and some sort of “thank you” day for those who donated to the local public broadcaster.

Bit of a perfect storm in that it made the park really busy, so I thought it was pretty stupid that they didn’t bother opening till midday according to the calendar, when they normally open at 10? Why?

It did give me a chance to sleep in, and I got there at 11 and did a lap of the grounds to get photos and scope the place out.

To be honest, I wasn’t really taken by the place. Now, I know that visiting a park on a crowded day is never a good recipe for being in the right frame of mind, but really, it felt like walking around a fair/royal show/exhibition, with gravel pathways, and 60s buildings and toilet blocks that look like they haven’t had any love for years, and old rides. In all honesty, parks like SFA are in better condition (But I’m not allowed to say that am I because Knoebels is “family run”, even though there are numerous examples of nice looking family parks out there.

On the plus side, the place is CHEAP, I think unlimted rides was around the $20-$25 mark, and individual rides ranged from $1,to $3 for the big coasters.

I started off waiting at the entrance of Flying Turns, but when it became clear that the ride was going to be late opening and the place was getting packed I bailed and went to Phoenix instead.

This was a really fun ride. Did the front row as people suggest. It’s a regular out and back coaster, but it has several strong airtime hills in a row right at the end which make it come alive.

Fast operations too, with no airgates, and trains spending maybe 20 secs in the station.

Upon exiting, Flying turns wasn’t ready yet so I went on Black Diamond. Doesn’t really deserve to be called a coaster IMO, more of a dark ride with drops, and you are braked at the bottom of each drop. The ride starts off with a lift hill, up into the ride building, and you pass through various scenes of animatronic miners, and a mine fire and other semi spooky stuff as you work your way back to ground level. Cool little diversion

Nearby was the Haunted House. The golden ticket awards etc seem to rave about this as being the best haunted house, and maybe I should have known better given it was a “golden ticket opinion”, but it was nicely done, but it was maybe an incremental step above your average small park haunted house, rather than some killer (excuse the pun)dark ride  I was expecting. It was very long, and the track twisted and turned for ages, so you got a decent ride out of if, and the effects seemed to be in good nick. Fairly standard fare scenes like floating skulls, things that pop out, near misses with truck headlights etc.

Not sure what I was thinking not doing this ride sooner, but I headed to their 2 week old coaster, Impulse, which is a Zierer vertical lift coaster that is pretty similar to a Eurofighter as far as it matters.  Discovered  a long queue stretching out the entrance, and ended up waiting about an hour, and there wasn’t much shade, but again, crews were working pretty fast. The queue goes right through the middle of the track.

Decent, but pretty middle of the road. I’m of the opinion that this style of compact coaster of today is like what the loopscrew was in the 1980s, in other words fun, but they don’t set the world alight and aren’t that intense. Basically the ride goes vertical lift, straight into a vertical drop, cobra roll, loop, a turn and helix, barrel roll, then one last helix to finish off.  The trains are very comfortable, and have an excellent harness design, which makes the hangtime you get in the barrel roll quite enjoyable.

I headed back and joined the 45 minute line for flying turns, the much delayed wooden bobsled coaster. I guess overall I preferred the mack bobsleds I have done, faster pacing and a narrower track. The think with flying turns is the trough is so big it takes up your whole field of vision basically, so you lose your sense of speed and direction, especially on the main set of turns and helices, where it was kinda like being in one of those big family waterslides. Points for uniqueness and effort though!

Would have tried to ride Kozmos Kurves, the parks family coaster, but a long line stretching back to the main path made me abandon that (No, I’m  not that desparate for coaster credits!)

My limited schedule left time to do Twister and the Flyers.

First of Twister….thankfully, a short wait, maybe 15 mins or so.

Surprisingly good! Phoenix gets the limelight, but I thought this was great fun too, it had an interesting layout that was unpredictable, and mixed it up a bit. Helped somewhat that I didn’t know the ride well, so it felt like it was going and going for ages. Quite liked that big continuous bowl helix around the station, and that random section at the end under all the supports where you drop into an underground tunnel.

Last ride was the famous Flyers, which I waited about 30 mins for. Haha these are great, and I can see what people mean about being able to ‘snap’ these without even trying. Was a lot of fun pretending I was out of control as the tub whipped and shook around due to my sudden wing movements.

I should mention the food at Knoebels, which is supposedly amazing. Yeah maybe, if you’ve never eaten out in your life, or never left Pennsylvania I suppose :S

I tried the potato cakes, and the pizza since they seem to get glowing reviews.

The potato cake was nice, not like an Australian potato cake/potato scallop, rather it was more like those rostis you can get in the Swedish frozen food section at Ikea, with onion and bits of potato pressed together.

As for the Pizza, to me it was fairly similar to most pizza you get in America, a lot of sauce, a lot of oregano, and just salami, so it didn’t stand out that much….I suppose my notion of a good pizza is one with about 6 types of meat, mushroom, tomato, onion, capsicum etc, really loaded up.

Yes

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No

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So to sum up, Knoebels is basically a fairground with a few ‘good’ coasters attached to it. By all means visit, but I guess allow more time.

There were a few other things I would have tried had I had the time…the ferris wheel, that ring dispensing grand carousel, looper, satellite, but had to press on.

About a 90 minute drive away I got to Dorney park I think about 5-6pm ish.

Straight in with a prepaid ticket and parking pass.

The park has an odd, long, L shaped layout, with a midway at the top with a few rides, then a another long midway at the bottom of a valley that stretches along.

First up was Talon. Not many were waiting for the front row, so I popped straight on there. Yep, say in the top half of the inverts out there, decent scale, and nice long layout, but it did feel a bit unbalanced. Basically the first half is loop, zero g roll and immelmann all in pretty quick sucession, then it just mucks around for the middle part with a helix, hill, and a couple of turns, and then you finish off with a fast corkscrew and forceful helix. Here I spotted something quirky about dorney. On their coasters, they don’t use automatic gates, rather they are just spring loaded aluminium ones with magnetic locks, and you just push through yourself when the ops unlock them. Elegant in its simplicity anyway.

Next I did Hydra, a B&M floorless with 7 inversions (Which is cheating a bit because you hardly go upside down in that inclined dive loop. On paper, it sounds like it’s a really large ride. Lots of inversions and 1km long, but in reality, its not that big, it sort of runs off a hillside, so it not too tall, so I understand now why it was only $13mil USD.

Straight out of the station you do a small drop into a barrel roll. I didn’t think this worked to well with B&Ms harness design,  you shift around in your seat a fair bit and it felt kinda awkward.

You come around onto the lift, down a straight drop and into the inclined dive loop, which is really just an overbanked turn in different clothes. Following that is a zero g roll, a corkcrew, which drops out to the lowest point at the cobra roll, you work you way uphill again, over a couple of humps, and finish off with another corkscrew and a helix into the brakes. Like Talon, one of the better of its type, but maybe not the best.

Both coasters get points for effective colour schemes!

Next was Demon Drop. The very first time I was at SFMM I skipped freefall for some stupid reason, and then the next time I was back it was gone, so good to try an intamin first gen freefall. Basically, you sit in these upright 4 person cars that reverse out of the station into a lift, you then get lifted upwards vertically to the top of a tower, pushed forward onto another track, and freefall vertically. These rides were built before the days of magnetic brakes, so the track curves down to horizontal (like Tower of Terror in reverse), brakes stop you, and then there Is this switch track that the car reverses onto  to get onto a lower level of track, whilst simultaneously being turned upright again. What I loved was the anticipation factor, because the ride went through several stages rather than just “up, stop, drop, off”. The way you come to a stop on your back is a bit weird on your neck, like a pretzel loop on a flying coaster.

Moving on I did Stinger, which I thought was SBNO going by RCDB, well it wasn’t. My thoughts on this type of SLC boomerang are the same….really good, and I much prefer it to a normal boomerang. It’s smoother, and less sickening. This ride has a strangely catchy/hillarious rap as its ride safety spiel:

Swings and roundabouts though. I got spited by Possessed, which had been operating, but when I walked over there had an empty queue, and wouldn’t be reopening for the rest of the night due to technical difficulties. Bugger. I wasn’t too bothered since I’ve been on Wicked Twister and V2, but this one had the holding brake and the pure vertical drop, which I was interested to try.

Onwards anyway, so I hit up steel force, first time on a Morgan hyper (Though have been on the Santa Monica West coaster) This was really good! What immediately sprung to mind was it was how Apollos Chariot could have been, pacing, and airtime were all a bit better I thought.

Thunderhawk was next, an out and back woodie that apparently was made longer at one point, so there is this bit of track at the end that reminded me of the shape of a toilet S-bend. Had a few moments of air, but overall, it was your typical “filler” wooden coaster that the park hangs onto because it has to.

I didn’t want to run out of light (Well, I was anyway, but meh) so I did a spin on the ferris wheel and got several blurry photos.

Second last coaster I had yet to ride was the Zamperla kiddy coaster, Woodstock's Express…I swear I’ve been on more of those than Wacky worms.

I finished the roster on the Wild Mouse, which was perhaps the longest wait because they don’t load two adults (though still fairly short), still cant decide if I like these Maurer mouses, or the Mack ones better….Macks are more comfortable, but the Maurers have a few more hills. This ride had another loading station rap too.

I think at that point I’d done everything I wanted to,  since the rest was just flats and an overly wet rapids ride….What’s the go with the Dominator S&S tower having 3 towers, but one of them ‘blank’ with no ride car or piping installed?

I used the remainder of the evening to re-ride Talon a couple of times (The attendant at the station entrance seemed not all there ..…not  letting enough people into the station so whole rows were going out empty, and then seemed surprised when I asked “errm, why can’t I go through and take those empty seats instead of being made to wait here?”

Did a couple more rides on Hydra, and squeezed in one last go on Steel Force, just before  the park closed.

On the way out I tried “Ritas Frozen Custard”, since I’d seen a few parks selling it on the east coast. It didn’t really taste different to normal soft serve though, is there something I’m missing?

Dorney is an odd place.  Imagine this pic represents the vibe you get at Disney, Alton, Busch etc.

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And then this is what Dorney feels like.

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It’s well kept, and tidy, but it looks so plain! But the coasters were good, and I’d rather have this on my doorstep than Dreamworld. In terms of what the park needs….A proper family thrill coaster, a modern woodie, or a full circuit launch coaster would all complement the line up nicely. And a dark ride for sure!

 

 

 

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 In terms of what the park needs….A proper family thrill coaster, a modern woodie, or a full circuit launch coaster would all complement the line up nicely. And a dark ride for sure!

Which, funnily enough is the same thing you could say for Dreamworld... 

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