First stop was Cedar Point on Wednesday. This strangely was only my third trip to Cedar Point this year, and one of those was only a couple of hours on a Friday a couple of weeks ago that I left early due to huge lines. It turned out that after this trip, I'm definitely with a lot of you on this site and PointBuzz in feeling that there's something just ... off ... about the Point this year. Things just aren't the same. There were frequent breakdowns through the few hours we were there; Wicked Twister twice, Dragster barely worked all night, and Millennium Force, well more on that to come.
My Dad doesn't really do flat rides, but I convinced him to try Maxair, and he loved it! It really is a great ride, and although it's not the typical marquee attraction for the Point, it's a great addition and a great fill-in for the park, not to mention it's a people-eater which is always nice. We also hit Magnum and Wicked Twister and passed on a long line at Raptor before heading over to Millennium Force. Well, this is where I was truly disappointed. The ride broke down once while we were in line, and although it wasn't as slow as previous years, the line still creeped, and there was a steady stream of "rejects" coming down from the platform. The most inexplicable thing, and the thing that really convinced me that things have changed is that about halfway through our wait, a train was taken off the tracks. I can't remember ever seeing this happen before, usually from what I remember, 3 trains ran until the line was empty. The worst part about it though, the train that was taken off had fully operational seats, and one that was left, had a front seat roped off! Now why in the world would you not take off that train? Now those poor souls in the front have had their wait doubled because they can only go in every other train. It was just very un-CedarPoint-esque and was disappointing to see. After a line that was 3 queues from the pop machines (which should have taken about 45 minutes) we got on the ride an hour and a half after we got in line. It was still a great ride, but all in all, it wasn’t what an evening at the Point should be.
I know this year, the Point will not be getting my vote for Best Park in any survey. The little flair, the something in the air that made the park really special just isn't there this year. Maybe it's nothing more than you can't be number one forever, and they're going into a down cycle, cause as has been said elsewhere, it's hard to really point to one single policy or occurance that makes it bad. Whatever's going on in Sandusky, it's really killed my desire to visit as much as I usually do. I will probably make the trip for the Friday before Labor Day, one full Halloweekend (bachelor party) and maybe another Sunday ... a drastic reduction from when I usually make at least one day, five of the six Halloweekends.
Luckily I was able to stay at my Dad's hotel room and didn't have to make the entire trip back to Pittsburgh Wednesday night. Thursday morning I came all the way back for work, worked for about five hours, comped the rest of the time and I was off on the next part of my weekend. I always enjoy traveling to PKD as I get to experience the Capital Beltway. Now to some of you, especially those that live there, I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think of it like a major challenge. That was the most "exciting" part of the drive down, for the most part, I was just SIRIUSly thankful for my Sirius radio ;) Satellite is a wonderful thing! (note the product placement kiddies, that's marketing right there ...). I stayed at a Hampton Inn (yay breakfast!) north of PKD and was at the park close to opening the next morning. Since I was driving another good 4 hours south, I wanted to get in and get my fill of riding in early and get a start on heading to my buddy's in South Carolina, plus I didn't want to get to his house too late.
PKD was HOT. There was a heat advisory for that day, and they weren't kidding. I was standing at the rope-drop for Volcano with my arms crossed for about 5 minutes and when I put them down, my shirt was soaked with sweat where my arms were against it ... rather embarassing! After the rope-drop, I headed straight to Volcano ... which was closed until noon. Took a look at Tomb Raider Firefall, I was impressed by the effects, but I wasn't about to ride a top spin, especially one that has that wicked-looking of a ride program! So, since Volcano was out for now, headed over to Flight of Fear and got back-to-back rides. Very dark this time, good ride. I worked my way across the park, although there were some closures, Anaconda, Rebel Yell, etc. Drop Zone's a great ride, love these TRUE freefalls, unlike S&S towers. Listening to this ride's great, the load process is long enough that it gets pretty quiet before the rise to the top, but after the WHUMP of the brakes, every single person is laughing, sighing in relief, etc.! It's definitely amusing! Also got a nice view of where Italian Job's goin' in, nice unobtrusive area between Drop Zone and Anaconda, not really much disturbance to existing park at all.
After Drop Zone, I headed over to the next clustering of rides. Hypersonic was the longest wait of the day - still a great launch (only the second time I've gotten to ride) and very powerful, but how that launch is used is just pathetically disappointing. One ride was enough for me. Hurler was a little rough, but good, Rebel Yell was pretty good this time, made up for how bad it was last year, I rode Richochet for the first time and wondered why once I got off, Grizzly was fun, but definitely better at night. After Grizzly, I bought a drink as it was getting REALLY hot and went to pick up the two ride's I'd missed out on. Volcano was being, as one guy in line put it "PMSing today" and would just semi-randomly shut down for 20 minutes. But, some guy in front of me had a portable DVD player with Chapelle's Show, so I really didn't care about the waits and I wasn't missing out on Volcano! The ride was as usual, worth the wait, and I still can't understand how people cannot like this ride! After Volcano, took a spin on Avalanche as I had never done that before, although this time (as opposed to Richochet) I wondered why I had never done that one before ... quite fun! Hit FoF, Drop Zone and Volcano again and after Volcano's three PMS attacks while I was in line, it was time for me to head out.
My buddy lives in Latta, South Carolina, which is about an hour west of Myrtle Beach, so I was basically heading straight down I-95. I knew I would be heading out into the boonies, but I wasn't prepared for how "boonies" this would be! I was somewhat saddened that by looking at the billboards, the only real attractions on the I-95 corridor between the VA line and where I exited in South Carolina are an Orlando ticket retailer in NC, Pedro's South of the Border which is a god-awful eyesore, and porn stores. Once again, thank you Sirius for getting me through that drive! I got to my buddy's place, marveled at the lack of people around, and went to bed so I could stay awake for my drive to ...
Carowinds on Saturday. My drive took me through some places that I swear don't even look like they're part of this country to me. This was my first trip through the true "South" and wow, as a Northerner, I never would have believed places like this existed unless I saw them with my own eyes. It's just so ... different! Saw something absolutely hilarious on the drive; just past the North Carolina border, there was a blue sign pointing left for a North Carolina Lisence Plate Center ... which pointed right at an empty, sandy lot with a minivan parked there selling stuff out of the back! The sign obviously meant the next road, but I was laughing for a good 10 minutes at that one ... need a NC lisence plate? See Bubba in the blue mini-van!!!
After getting lost trying to find the park (I don't recommend AAA.com for directions) I arrived to a massive backup outside the entrance gates! I knew it would be crowded being a Saturday, and I knew it was supposed to be hot ... but I wasn't prepared for THAT crowded and THAT hot! It took almost 30 minutes just to get IN the park thanks to the backup at the metal detectors, but once I got in, I headed straight for Top Gun. The sun and heat were horrible, and I felt like I had been beaten up by the time I reached the covered station. I opted for the front seat since that kept me in the fans and cover for longer! I'm glad I did as Top Gun was great!
Top Gun is everything Montu should be! Montu's a great coaster with unique elements and great use of terrain as a theme element, but whenever I've ridden, I always have this feeling that it just could be better ... well it can be, and it exists in North Carolina! Every element on this one is powerful, smooth, well executed and perfectly timed. These mid-sized inverts are definitely where it's at, this one is tied in my mind with Talon for my favorite invert. Gotta love that bowtie through the mist under the midway!
After Top Gun, I wound my way through the park, hitting some of the Paramount regulars. Thunder Road aka Rebel Yell aka Racer was pretty good, probably my favorite of the three. Hurler here wasn't as good as PKD's, but by no means bad. The mine train was pretty good for a mine train, I actually had fun. Vortex wasn't worth the wait, Super Saturator definitely was (especially on this day!). Carolina Cyclone was a good old Arrow that I really liked, and BORG was a long freakin' wait, but still worth it. I rode this as Stealth in it's last year out West and thought it was better than the "MkII" version that is X-Flight and Batwing, and I still think that. Give me those corkscrews and forget the final helix any day. Also liked the theme on BORG – kinda kooky, but fun, the colors were excellent.
Unfortunately, most of Carowinds is a heat-induced blur. I hit everything once, Top Gun a second time and headed for air conditioning and liquid. The park was pretty good, although I would rank #3 of the 4 Paramount's I've visited. It tries to have the feel of the bigger PKD and PKI, but only has the size and rides to be a nice mid-sized park like SFDL or SFNE. Maybe that's just my perception, but I think PCar just tries a little too hard. Not my favorite park, but definitely not a bad one either. As a note for next year, I don't know if they've announced yet, but don't be surprised if you see an Italian Job at this park ... they were running the previews for the movie in Top Gun's line - a lot. Also, there seemed to be a lot of references to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow around, so maybe not at Carowinds, but another park, watch for a Sky Captain theme to pop up (replacement of the becoming-outdated Top Gun?).
The rest of my weekend was some good non-coastering fun. I had a great time on the cop-less drive back seeing what my car can really do (121 easy) and then my friend and I met up with his brother and another friend and his brother that we all went to the same high school, and we went down to the "strip" in Myrtle for the evening. Rode in the back of a pickup truck down a major road, drank at some interesting bars, played some pool, saw the sights, definitely had a good time. There's a newer wooden coaster, I'm not sure the name, that has steel supports that looked like a lot of fun, but I was having too much fun hanging out and drinking to even think about going to ride before it closed down for the night.
Sunday was my long drive home, from Myrtle back to my buddy's house, then 9 1/2 hours home. Most interesting thing that happened was I saw two coyotes dining on a roadkilled deer in West Virginia, but other than that, nothing of note. It was a great weekend, I logged almost 2000 miles, hit two of my favorite parks, and racked up another new one. Carowinds probably isn't a park I'll make a special trip to go back to, but if I ever have a layover of a couple of hours in Charlotte, I'm definitely hopping a cab to go hit Top Gun, it'd be worth it for that! I realized on my drive home there's not a lot of this left for me, there's only a few parks left that I really have any desire to roadtrip or otherwise travel to just to ride. I'll be picking up SFEG next weekend, but after that ... Holiday World, SFoG, SFFT, Dollywood, Wisconsin Dells and that about does it for me. I guess I'm reaching the end of my run as a big-time travelling enthusiast, until I get the money to jump the pond for a stretch, but that probably won't be a for a few years.
*** Edited 8/17/2005 3:51:18 PM UTC by Antuan***
My buddy lives in Latta, South Carolina... but I wasn't prepared for how "boonies" this would be... Pedro's South of the Border which is a god-awful eyesore...
Having just driven that this week, I know what you're saying. Went through Latta, the boonies, by South of the Border with its SBNO mouse, and even by all those porn shops. And what part of WV did you drive through and didn't come see me? I'm hurt. ;)
I can't believe I missed this TR till now.
Coyotes, in West Virginia? More than likely wild dogs, maybe even wolves, but coyotes east of the Mississippi River I don't think so.
There are coyotes in Erie, PA. I actually caught video of one in the field behind my house.
Cyotes, bobcats, bears, oh My!
Heh, I-77/Rt 19/I-79 corridor ... the "Northerner's Trail" or something like that ... fastest way out of Hillbillyville ;)
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