A Weedend Trip to Cliff's!

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 3:33 AM
Excuse the camera phone pictures, it’s all I had with me.

Kaley and I finished most of our finals down at Arizona State University by Friday, and I just completed my private pilot test, so we decided to celebrate. At 1am Saturday morning, while watching some DVR’d Law and Order (SVU of course) we decided we needed a vacation. A quick search on Google Maps, and at 1:30am we started driving to Cliff’s in Albuquerque, with a quick stopover in Holbrook, Arizona.

The way we drove was through Payson (instead of Flagstaff) and it was quite the adventure. I have a lead foot, and had never been through these roads before- needless to say Kaley had no trouble staying awake. You drive along cliffs (just looked like darkness at the time) and on some very tight roads through the forest and high desert. We almost hit a pack of deer, numerous rabbits (with red eyes!), a wolf, a coyote, and the scariest of all, an elk. We made it to Holbrook in2.5 hours at 4am, and got a room at a crappy Motel 6 to sleep for a few hours.

Scared for our lives all night at this Motel 6, Kaley and I got hardly any sleep. Thank god we brought our own blanket and pillows. At 8:30am we got the hell out of there with some McDonald’s to hold us over until we got to the park. We were traveling along at a modest 85mph, only stopping for fuel, and made it to Cliff’s at 1pm Arizona time. Unfortunately, we forgot New Mexico observes Daylight Savings, so it was really 2. No worry, the empty parking lot told us we had plenty of time.

As we walked up to the entrance, my greatest fear was realized. That morning, the NM Rattler had stalled at the top of the second turnaround. It was cold and windy, I’m sure a bad combination when doing the morning test. Having frequented Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks, I expected the worst. It seemed we’d have to make another trip to enjoy the last CCI. We still entered the park, paying the average $24/each for an unlimited ride pass. Right as we entered the park, I could tell I liked this place. It was obviously small, but it had a charm to it the city of Albuquerque definitely lacked. There was some wild west themeing, which looked nice, and fit the park well. Right away I noticed the train, which gives major brownie points for me. Sure, it’s only a CP Huntington, but something is better than nothing. It was also obvious the Rattler ran right down the middle of the park, dividing it into two parts. The park was empty, so we had to get our ride on.

I still had a glimmer of hope the Rattler would open, but tried to hide my disappointment. I figured we should make sure to get at least one credit on their SDC Galaxi. As we approached the ride I noticed how nice this Galaxi looked. It still had the original signage, and looked freshly painted. Even though the park was deserted, they had three trains running. This was quite the contrast to the Galaxi at Pharaoh’s in San Bernardino- that one only has one train and looks barely operational. This Galaxi even had kicker wheels in the station so they didn’t have to push the cars around! The ride was a typical Galaxi, except it felt a bit smoother and less like riding on gravel. This ride was also considered “very scary” by many of the locals, which is pretty funny considering it is usually considered a family coaster. I guess the lack of a major park has kept the locals from becoming desensitized.

Next we headed over to the Rock-o-Plane, a true classic in my opinion and Kaley had never been on one. This one was in INCREDIBLE condition, I’d never seen a Rock-o-Plane look so nice. I could have been convinced it was brand new if I didn’t know better. The location within the second turnaround of Rattler was also very cool and unique. I did the brake the whole ride and, needless to say, it terrified Kaley into never wanting to go on one again. Oh well, I guess I did a good job!

The mechanics didn’t look like they were having much luck with Rattler’s stalled train, so we headed back to the CP Huntington. It took us on a nice trip through the Rattler’s structure and around the entire park. From the train we got a good view of the construction of their new ride, Sidewinder. After talking to a few of the locals, it turns out Sidewinder is replacing the park’s Yo-Yo. The Sidewinder is a Moser Rides Sidewinder, like the one at Knoble’s. Although only the foundation is complete, they are giving out coupons saying the ride will open Memorial Day weekend. It’s going to be an excellent addition to the park, it’s just too bad they had to take out the Yo-Yo to fit it in. It was also around this point we noticed the drop tower, Cliff Hanger, was not open. This wasn’t a big deal since we had the exact same (not so great) model here in Phoenix at Castles n’ Coasters.

By the time we got back to the train’s station, we noticed they were using a pulley system to move the train forward at a rate of about an inch each minute. It was already 3 by this point, so we were going to move slow and stay until parking closing at 7 to make sure we didn’t miss an opportunity to ride Rattler. We got some lunch, which unfortunately wasn’t very good, and relaxed watching the Tilt-A-Whirl (also in excellent condition) and the Falling Star. After a bit of sitting, we decided to ride Falling Star.

I’ve absolutely love Falling Stars, and was sad when Knott’s took theirs out. This one was in fair condition (visually) and the ride op was having a lot of trouble with the controls. Instead of starting the ride cycle, she kept making the ride jerk side to side. Once it finally started, I was extremely disappointed. It went slow, and felt more like a Zamperla Joker than a Falling Star. The kids loved it, but it was just too weak for my taste. I’ve yet to ride the one at Castle Park because it’s been down the couple of times I was there, but I hope it is run better than this.

Musik Express was right there, so we figured, “Why not?” Quite the contrary to Falling Star, this Musik Express was run right! Good, loud music over the sound system and it ran both forward and backward. The ride op would announce, “Now let’s go faster!” and the speed would be kicked up a notch. This is refreshing since so many parks and even fairs now run these rides so slowly, and sometimes not even in reverse.

Rattler still hadn’t moved, so we headed over to the Swinging Ship. It was well run and gave us some good air. It gave a nice length cycle. After we rerode Galaxi and watched the flume for a while. It is a pretty basic flume, but had a nice Cliff’s logo on the front. It was freezing cold, so we didn’t ride.

There is also an inner tube ride just like that at Magic Mountain. It fit into the park well, but it was amazing to me that people would still be riding this in the freezing weather. We were killing all this time, I hardly noticed the mechanics pushing on the Rattler train when Kaley yelled, “It’s moving!” They pushed the train off the turnaround and it slowly finished the course. It was amazing hearing how loud those PTCs were compared to the quietness of the park on this empty day. Since it was only 4:45, I still didn’t get too excited. It seemed like there was no way they would get this open before 7. We headed over to the ride’s entrance to see if we could get the scoop on whether or not to stay and wait for it to open.

We got over to the Rattler entrance to find three employees, two ride ops and one supervisor. After some chatting with them, we found out the mechanics (who looked more like janitors than mechanics, no offense to them) were going to grease up the track and see if the train would make it around the course. If it made it, we’d get to ride. This manager said it was the first time he’d ever seen it stall. We talked to him a bit more and found out only 700 people had come into the park, much less busy than usual. After a lot of greasing, they started to test. I was surprised they didn’t have any sandbags or anything to add weight to the train. It was still cold and windy and the first run barely cleared many of the hills. From then on, each run got quicker and quicker. After the fourth, a mechanic inspected the train, signed a piece of paper, and they opened the gates to let the small crowd into the station. It was 6:30pm at this point. Kaley and I had been waiting the longest, but the people from Albuquerque are brutal and pushed by us and into the station. It was only 50 or so people, but it was pure mayhem.

The queue is not very well designed since from the entrance there is a separate line for front, middle and back. The queues are not very long, but since the front and back only go for one car the wait would be ridiculously long on a busy day. Once we finally got into the station, we were in line for the back car behind some thugs and little kids that had apparently made their way in front of us. Oh well, we figured it’d give the train a couple more laps to warm up. It was at this time we got to see Cliff’s interesting operations. Maybe they have never seen how a coaster can be run efficiently, but it was awful to watch. They first check everyone’s height, then open the air gates. More than HALF of the train couldn’t figure out how to use their seatbelts, so the ride ops then go through the train putting on everyone’s seatbelt and tightening them. THEN, they usually open the air gates again to let a single rider on at the one empty seat. They check their seatbelt, and finally release the lap bars. They then go through checking all the lap bars (slowly since half the people want theirs pushed as tight as possible) and finally give the thumbs up. You can imagine waiting for two trains to cycle was tedious.

We finally got on, got comfortable, and after waiting for the ride ops to do their thing, were off. An immediate right out of the station and briskly up the lift we went. The first drop doesn’t appear steep, but it has a nice pop of airtime and speed picks up quickly. You immediately go into a Cornball-style turnaround over the kiddie area. The train never looses speed and the drop off the turnaround has excellent airtime. Then you head into the structure and there is another excellent airtime drop, followed by a shallow airtime hill. A quick shift to the right and up into the second turnaround. You head up, turn to the right, dive down into a tunnel and up again. There are great laterals through this entire turnaround. Then there are a couple of little hops, the second one leading into the final helix to the left. It is amazing how much speed the ride keeps up through the entire course and how it combines a great mix of airtime and laterals. It was a great little coaster and we were lucky enough to get back in line just in time to get a ride in the front seat. I liked the front better because there were different pops of airtime than in the back and the laterals were even better on the second turnaround, but Kaley still preferred the two major airtime hills in the back.

Needless to say the opening of Rattler completed our day nicely. We walked out of the park at 7:05pm and felt we really had a great day.

There were only a handful of cars left in the parking lot and the weather was taking a turn for the worst. We drove city streets to the Quality Inn and I have to say if it wasn’t for Cliff’s, we wouldn’t be visiting again anytime soon. Exhausted, we got some food to go and went straight to sleep at 9:30pm.

The next day, we left Albuquerque right away at noon and headed west. Traffic wasn’t bad and we figured we could check out some of the national parks along the way. We drove down and through the Malpiz natural area and took in the beautiful sights. There is the ice cave that was a short hike, but very cool (literally). It’s this lava tube you hike down into and there is a large pool of ice down there year round. They say, for a number of reasons, the temperature down there never gets above 31 degrees. It’s thousands of years old and always growing. How amazing to see in person! Almost just as amazing for someone from California, it started snowing on our way back to the car.

After driving a bit more, we stopped at El Morro. This is a Mesa that has markings carved into its side. It was unbelievable how interesting this rock is. Native Americans who lived on top of the mesa carved petroglyphs into it some 700 years ago. You can walk right up to the rock were these were carved. Then in the 1700s Spanish explorers carved their names and other things into the sandstone. That was before the Mayflower landed! Settlers in the 1800s also carved into the rock as they made trips across the country to California. If anyone is in the area, I would check out El Morro. There is so much history in this one location and it’s only $3 and a half-mile hike. We will be returning and hiking to the top of the mesa to see the Native American ruins.

From there it was just a long drive back to Phoenix. We made good time and had a lot of memories from this little spur of the moment trip. I would recommend everyone get to Cliff’s to help support the little park, if only it was in a better location. I hope you enjoyed reading this report as much as I enjoyed writing it. Oh, and we finally had our last final today so we are officially sophomores in college! We made it!

Pictures:
Continental Divide (there was a gas station there) http://picasaweb.google.com/parkerday/ABQTrip/photo#5062419793652094498
Sidewinder Construction http://picasaweb.google.com/parkerday/ABQTrip/photo#5062419858076603986
Log Flume http://picasaweb.google.com/parkerday/ABQTrip/photo#5062419888141375074
Theme with train http://picasaweb.google.com/parkerday/ABQTrip/photo#5062419909616211570
Stalled Rattler Train
http://picasaweb.google.com/parkerday/ABQTrip/photo#5062419952565884562
Kaley at El Morro http://picasaweb.google.com/parkerday/ABQTrip/photo#5062419978335688354
Me at El Morro http://picasaweb.google.com/parkerday/ABQTrip/photo#5062420004105492146

Hopefully this topic won't be remembered by the title "Weedend." What a mistake... *** Edited 5/9/2007 8:31:18 AM UTC by GoliathKills***

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 5:10 AM
Sounds like you 2 had a great time at Cliff's and by the way the pics from your phone are actually really good! Shockingly. Someday I will get out there. I hope.
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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 2:01 PM
Nice TR, It does look like a nice little park and the Sidewinder will fit in. I also agree those are nice pictures for a camera phone!
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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 2:02 PM
Rattler sounds like an awesome coaster. I am really looking forward to getting there sometime in the (hopefully near) future.
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Friday, May 11, 2007 3:39 PM
Nice TR Parker...your phone DOES take good pics, LOL. The owners of the park went though ALOT to get that coaster up and running, good to hear *continued* good reports of the ride.

^Hey Matt, didya notice the Rock-O-Plane next to Rattler? Thought so... ;)

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Saturday, May 12, 2007 1:23 AM
Thanks for the nice comments. My phone is a Sony Ericsson w810i and the pictures are better than most it seems. It's important to get out and spend some time at the smaller parks, and you never know what you'll find compared to the larger parks. I also forgot to mention, but how many parks would put so much time and effort into opening a coaster 30 minutes before closing with an empty park?
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Saturday, May 12, 2007 2:10 AM
When are we going, Bill? ;)
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