A Dorney Quickie

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004 6:59 PM
... quick visit that is. Made a spur of the moment decision to visit DP on Friday evening, the 22nd. I figured it was going to be my only chance to visit the park this year before it closed. I got there around 7:10, later than I hoped, because of a late start and construction along I-78. For some reason, some people can't drive faster than 10 mph through a construction zone.

The night was already cool and a bit damp, which really helped to spread the Hallo-weekend fog around. In fact, I had to put on my fog lights along the entrance road to see where I was going. (A little easier on the fog machines, folks.) This was my first visit since 2000, so I needed all the help I could get navigating inside and outside the park. The parking lot was only partially full, which I took as a good omen.

I paid my starliter admission and figured I'd see how much I could do in just under 3 hours. I didn't think to look for a park map/brochure, and didn't see any in plain view, which I wished I had later on. First scheduled stop: Talon. I headed down the midway (that's a favorite of a number of posters here) looking for the entrance, which I finally found.

It was a long walk in, but I was pleasantly surprised to walk past empty queue lines, right up to the top of the stairs onto the loading platform without stopping once to wait. A train was actually dispatched with a few rows entirely empty. Now with 3 layers of clothing on, I figured my best bet was going to be the big guy seats in Row 4 or 5. The seat was actually quite roomy, and there was even some give in the restraint. Only negative is that the larger seats are interior ones.

It was a great ride for my first ever. Since it was dark, I had no idea of the layout and what was coming next. That made it really cool. Of course the best way to get more familiar with the layout is by riding again, so I walked back into the line and once again right up to the loading platform. There was a train stopped about 1/3 of the way up the lift, but it started moving again after a minute. Had to wait one more train this time. Took my seat in Row 4 and had 3 teeny boppers fill in the other seats in the row.

Now, I may catch flak for my next comment. But I'm becoming more and more convinced that all girls between the ages of 11 and 16 should be put on an island somewhere, and not be allowed to return until they can show a lack of ditziness. Maybe it's a pre-teen thing, maybe it's an Allentown thing, but apparently these girls translate "Dispatch" as "begin screaming really loudly now, and don't stop until the ride ends." High-pitched screaming notwithstanding, the second ride was almost as fun as the first.

After getting my hearing back, I decided to check out the rest of the park. Taking the walkway past Whitewater Landing and Meteor, I came to the Hydra construction site. From my recollection, even with Hercules there, this was sort of a desolate area without too much traffic and activity. Hopefully that will change with the addition of Hydra. There should at least be good viewing of the new coaster from the Midway.

I didn't get to see everything because of the dark, fog, and construction fence. But you do get a better idea in person of what's happening and how Hydra will fit in with its surroundings-- better than the video or construction pics show. The train will come out of the station facing the front gate then make a 180 and face toward the lake going up the lift hill. The cobra roll will be right next to the walk that heads down the hill toward the flume ride, sort of by the balloon ride. I foresee a lot of photos being taken there.

I decided to hit the other coasters next, and headed down to the lower section of the park. To my disappointment I found out that Thunderhawk closed at 6 because of Fright Zone, which was using the walkway between the two big coasters. That pretty much sucked. So it was off through the fog toward Steel Force. Of course, I missed the turnoff that crossed the bridge and found myself at the dead end beyond Laser. There was another haunted attraction set up in the picnic pavilions there. Well, I found my turn and headed across the bridge into some majorly dense fog right at the exit of the Fright Zone. I mean can't-see-5-feet-in-front-of-your-face fog. I did manage to sidestep a youngster who was about to headbutt me in a very sensitive area.

Anyway, I made it up to the back of the line for Steel Force, only to have a sea of people start heading past me. Closed for maintenance. Now this really really sucked. Two coasters closed? Back through the fog and over the bridge. Of course now, with SF closed, the line for Laser was extremely long. This is really not fun right now.

I decided to try out the Whip. Dorney has a really great old Whip ride with fast turns and lots of slapping and rocking along the straightaways. (that's where I think Hershey's new Whip is lacking, not enough straightaway) Had to wait about 3 rides-- there always seems to be about 20 little kids that can cram into a square foot and make the wait longer than the line looks. Ditz episode #2-- three more Jessica Simpson types decided not to clear the ride because they had to stand by the rail talking to someone they knew who was outside the ride. More head shaking.

After finally getting seated, here comes a maintenance guy into the center and opens up the electric panel. Now what? Turns out some of the marquee lights weren't on and he had to reset a few switches. Finally we were off and running, and the ride was worth the wait.

After the Whip I was deciding whether or not to try Dominator, and which side, when I heard a sound from above... no, not that high above. It was Steel Force heading into the helix at the turnaround. A chance at redeeming this night after all!

So right back to SF I went-- luckily made it past the Zephyr gates before they closed. Remembered where the turnoff was this time... still as foggy as ever though. Best part, the line was much shorter, not into the queues at all. I guess most of the people in line before decided not to head back. I just took the line that looked shortest, which was the 8th seat. Dead center I guess. (I'm also skipping Ditz episodes 3 & 4, which would just be too difficult to explain here-- you had to be there.) Along with Talon, SF was the reason I was there, and it didn't disappoint. Fast, smooth, and lots of airtime on the bunny hops back from the turnaround.

A second ride was definitely in order. Got the 4th row this time, more leg room in the 'front' cars, and with young kids in the three rows ahead of me, there really wasn't anything blocking the view. That ride was better than the first. That little shadow of doubt, is this thing going to get stuck on the hill, the pause at the top until the whole train comes over... then down 200 feet into the chilly October night air. The spiral even felt faster the second time. And more airtime on the way back to the station.

Checked out Revolution on the way back over the bridge, but that was down too. What gives? Maybe it's all the moisture in the air. Went over to Laser, waited only one ride. That's a fun ride too, even though it must have the slowest lift hill anywhere. I had to laugh at the attendants loading the next train, since you're supposed to load it front to back wherever you happen to end up. Couple of kids hopped in the second seat from the back and the attendant kept saying, you have to move up. So they got out and moved up one seat. Everyone getting off the ride got a chuckle out of that.

Saw Revolution moving, but without riders. Not getting on that one I guess. Since it was 9:40, I decided to head back uphill and get as many rides as I could on Talon before they kicked everyone out of the park. Got in two more rides, there was still hardly any line for it.

I just have to wonder about all the pre-teens and teens obviously not of driving age running around the park in groups unsupervised. I thought that's what malls were for How do they do it, do the parents just slow the car down along Hamilton Blvd and drop the kids off on the fly? Actually, there were a number of kids walking along the highway as I left the parking lot. Not good.

All in all, it was a pretty good night. 8 rides in less than three hours, including almost an hour without riding anything, just wandering around trying to find a ride I wanted that was open. I did eastern PA's big three parks in three consecutive weekends (KG, HP, DP) and taking everything into account-- rides, atmosphere, etc., I wouldn't rate Dorney as high as the other two, but still think it's a fun park. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt with all the rides being down. Next year with Hydra, it should be even better. If you're within driving distance of either HP or DP this weekend, I'd say go for it.

And since it took me longer to write this then I spent in the park, I'm outahere.

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