ACE Fall ThrillFest, PKD 10-22 or the best time I've ever had at a park

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My friend Shannon called me months ago to let me know about an ACE event at PKD to which I could be her guest. When she mentioned The Italian Job Turbo Coaster ERT, I was ready to sign up, as it was the one local credit I hadn't gotten yet.

When the new schedule came out at work and they asked for conflicts, they knew months in advance that it was the one day I couldn't work. So when someone bailed at the last minute, I wasn't too happy, but luckily we got it all sorted out, as it was one of the best days I've had at any amusement park, let alone PKD.

Getting up at the dreary hour of 5:55 a.m. to pick up my riding partner gowithgravity–who is an A.C.E. member–and his guest Brian in Millersville, MD we were on the road by 7:10 a.m.

Even though registration got moved back 1/2-hour, we arrived at the park at 9:15 a.m. and were met with other ACEr's waiting at the tollbooths. Apparently, the situation was no different at the other entrance. After waiting fifteen-minutes or so, we finally were let into the parking lot.

Registration was very quick, as they had the table split into alphabetical order. We went down the back pathway by Berzerker, and I felt completely disoriented upon seeing the Italian Job Turbo Coaster (or is it Stunt Track?, even the loading-station platform control box isn't sure). Sure, there was Anaconda in the background, but it just felt strange.

So ERT started and I think we got about 5-6 rides each, and a lot of us changed location and partners each time. Unfortunately, none of the effects were turned on for the morning session, except for the fire behind the oil barrels–which was a welcome feeling since it wasn't particularly warm. The one really nice thing that I enjoyed about the ERT is that I got to figure out the ending, which completely disoriented me at PKI at BeastBuzz due to riding it only once.

The park then opened to the public and we tried to beat them to Volcano, but a few of us had to hold up the works by using the restroom. The one-train operation sign also made us go "maybe later." So we went on Tomb Raider Firefall instead. Well, I should annotate that by saying that one group of us actually rode it, while the other half made it as far as the platform going down and waiting a good ten-minutes before they could get off.

It was raining pretty well by now as well, so it was the perfect time to go over to the ACE shootout at Scooby Doo and the Haunted Mansion. I thought this was an ERT, but it was actually a competition. I managed a respectable 1140 pts. with three other people in the car., but I will say that I've had lots of practice this summer at various parks, so I'm getting better. So at the end of the ride, out scores were recorded by Elizabeth Ringas, the new mid-atlantic rep.

We next wondered over to the ACE picnic, and were handed a trick-or-treat bag full of fun stuff. Included inside was a Flight of Fear button, a ITJC pin, coupons for ACE 2007 ride of the day, and a mystery coupon labeled A, B, or C. Interesting.

The meal, which by all standards actually was fairly healthy. There was chicken, barbecue something-or-another, salad, green beans etc. I was really surprised to not see the usual hot-dogs and hamburgers. During the meal, a couple of prizes were awarded, including a prize for the high-score on SDatHM (wish I could remember what it was). There was also a raffle in which a lucky man won a promo-only ITJC remote control car. It comes mounted on a piece of track with supports.

So then we were told to bring out lettered-tickets forward for a special prize. I had an A-ticket and got a Paramount's King's Dominion Flight of Fear shirt. The reason I mentioned Paramount is because when we were in the gift shop, some things had Paramount on them, and others didn't. The other tickets got you a white SDatHM t-shirt, or a sports bottle (I believe). After the meal and socializing with various people I hadn't seen in a while (plus a few new people), we dropped our goodie bags off at our cars, and headed back into the park.

There was a large group of us, and we headed to Drop Zone first. To say that Brian gets a little-bit excited on high-thrill rides, especially the Intamins, would be an understatement. He was basically existing on no sleep and came off totally wired. A re-ride was in order.

We had a little bit of time to kill before our next event, and this is where some of us got separated temporally. After a bathroom break, we thought the group was over at H:XLC, and there was no sign of them, so we went over to Grizzly and no one was there either.

gowtihgravity finds me and Eric, but he's worried because he can't find Brian. So hey, while we're here, let's ride. We went down the first drop and I said to Eric–"Did they raise the first drop?" And he says no. I guess after riding El Toro, it felt a little bit small. It wasn't terrible, but unfortunately exhibited the usual KD woodie-ride.

After that, we went to our next event which was the ERT at the Freak Show in 3D Haunted Maze, held in the Laser Tag building. We were all handed permanent paper glasses and were told to put our hands on the person in front of us. I'm not crazy about these things anymore, but we went in.

It was actually very well done for a theme park, and I had to laugh at the guy dressed-up as Jigsaw's puppet (from Saw), who kept asking me my name. I told him Rob, and he found me a minute later and said "Are we getting lost Robert?" as I guess we took a wrong turn:) I'm like "Robert?" inside, and then I think "dummy, you're wearing a nametage with your full first name!" There were many good scares as people would come out of nowhere.

After making it out of the maze, we found most of our crew waiting in the queue for the Maze of Madness held in a tent next to the pizza place across from Shockwave. Since they were moving pretty fast, we decided to give a try. I don't think it was quite as good as the first maze, but it seemed equally as long and was filled with mirrors.

We decided to get back to riding and headed towards H:XLC, which wasn't open, so the group went back and hit Ricochet and Hurler. I sat out Hurler and chilled with the two large stuff bears I was placed in charge of:) gowithgravity said the first turn seemed like the first turn was retracked, but the rest wasn't that great. I've gotten very nervous around potentially rough wooden coasters after this summer (see other TR), plus I wanted to nap a little.

We went up to hit yet another haunted house–the Blood Shed. This attraction is located in the arcade that you used to exit through after riding Grizzly. Even though they didn't tell us, we used the hands on shoulders protocol from earlier on. It started out bright and outside, but quickly got dark once we got inside. This house/maze had more of an 18th-century feel to it due to way the characters were dressed. It makes sense considering we were in the Old Virginia section of the park. There were lots of things hanging from the ceiling including some heavy baby-doll heads that didn't feel so good.

Still having quite a large group, we took over the Thunder Raceway, the new go-kart track for this year next to Grizzly. We also got $2-off coupons which helped. Me and Shannon took over the first car and everyone else rode solo, which put us at a disadvantage. The track is pretty good, and it's on a sloped angle. There's quite a few tight turns, and several slick spots.

It seems like (and we might have been) out there for well over five minutes, if not more, which is a good value for your buck. Shannon helped me with looking out for other cars, but with the wide body, not having side-view mirrors is a huge disadvantage. We also kept losing speed making our way up the turn back towards the pit.

H:XLC reopened and we all went to ride. I sat down in the seat and the lapbar fell hard and the shin bar hit my shins pretty hard. Surprisingly, the ride out to the launch wasn't bumpy like usual, but my shins were a little bit sore after the launch. After that, Shannon and some other members left. The rest of our group still had lots of rides to hit.

After talking it out for a bit, we decided to go to Kidzville first so we get the legal Taxi Jam credit today (no small kids needed!), but everyone else went through the Treasure Cave first. Taxi Jam was a trip and they give you two circuits. The in-car cameras weren't turned on as that would've been interesting. We moved over to the much more impressive Scooby-Doo junior woodie, which the group agreed rocks.

There was one section left to conquer, and that was Congo. So we went to Avalanche first which was great, then VtBC (thankfully up to two-train operation), FoF, Anaconda, and then back for ITJC at night. One thing gwg and I agreed about is that FoF wasn't very good at all. It started out great and then the midcourse brought it to a dead stop and the rest of the ride got rough. We both agreed that Joker's Jinx is much more fun. Afterwards, two of us went to use the bathroom and on the way back to the Italian Job hit the Tomb Raider Grill, since we hadn't eaten since 11:30 a.m. I got the 1/3-pound burger for $5.24 and it was worth every penny.

Meeting back with the group, we were happy to see lights on one of the trains out on the circuit. What we didn't know at first was that was the only train with lights and sound. One member called the other train the "stunt double." gowithgravity and I sat up front this time and waited for the train with sound. It was pretty cool how the sound was synched-up and the helicopter was moving. It was "neat" going through the tunnel with the low-beams on:)

If I had one complaint with the seats is that for me they're not terribly comfortable. I noticed this with the PKI-version as well. I was getting sore right around the base of my spine. While we waited around while some members were taking pictures, I noticed that one of the front headlights was out on the train that was operational. It's so sad that everyone predicted problems with the FX not working soon after the opening of PKI's version and now here we are at the end of the season with PKD, and they were right. Let's hope Cedar Fair fixes that next year.

We wanted to hump-it up to Rebel Yell and maybe Shockwave, but I pointed to Tomb Raider, and at first I was one of two people going, and then everyone followed along, since some hadn't gotten on earlier in the morning. Since I got there first, the ride op pointed to the back, while everyone else rode up front.

We didn't get a soundtrack, or flames. After the ride ended, the guy said you could stay on, and since I didn't know everyone else of our group stayed on, I got off. I didn't know that gwg asked for flames, and flames and a soundtrack he received after the girl hit some reset button. Only one of the columns worked though. What's up with that? I didn't mind not re-riding as it's a great spectator sport.

I brought up Drop Zone at night, and Brian's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, but we wanted to ride Rebel Yell first. On our way we passed a relatively new basketball game in The Grove. One ACEr informed me that it was the first Cedar Fair import, and some people weren't happy. He then added that they were the same people who ragged on Paramount.

Everyone agreed on front of Rebell Yell only, and since that was the only option available at this hour of night, the decision was made for us. RY was pretty good last year, but again it was opening day, and this is KD we're talking about and wood coasters. Not a pretty combination sometimes.

Me and gwg sat about a 1/4 of the way back, and we go down the first drop go over the small hill, and I get stapled. It wasn't too bad going out, but coming back things were not feeling good. Thankfully, I made it off in fine shape. I guess this is what happens to a wood coaster at PKD at the end of the season.

We got over to Drop Zone and thought it was too late, but gwg asked the man at the exit gate if we could ride and he said "Sure!' He opened the gate and then unlocked the orange-side for us (facing towards Richmond). What a way to end a night and a season.

Thanks to Shannon for giving my early birthday present (don't worry, I'll try to get you on El Toro next year:)), ACE, PKD, and all the fun I had with everyone today.

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