Best Birthday Gift Ever

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Monday, February 10, 2003 11:34 AM
After knowing for quite some time that my fiancee, Liz, was taking me to Atlantic City, NJ for my 30th (Feb. 7), she opted to tell me a week beforehand that we were actually headed to Las Vegas. What an awesome surprise!

Thursday, 2/6/03 - After getting off work a couple hours early to make our 8:30pm flight, I met Liz at her house and drove over to our friends' place. We packed our things into their car and headed from Northern VA to BWI in Baltimore...just in time for rush hour. We made it with plenty of time to spare, and the lines for America West airlines were practically non-existent. The forecast for the Baltimore/Washington area was calling for snow, the most we'd seen all winter--and it started shortly before we boarded the plane. After a slight delay (to de-ice the wings) we were off. We arrived in Las Vegas around 11.30pm and took a shuttle to our hotel, the Gold Coast. Because of the time difference, I extended my 29th year on this earth by 3 hours. ;)

Friday, 2/7/03 - After feeding some cash in the apparently starving slots, we cabbed it to the Stratosphere Tower. What an impressive structure. We found the weather was unusually lousy for southern Nevada, but even mid-50 degree temperatures were a pleasant change from the biting cold in D.C. (and 7 inches of snow). We rode High Roller first, which, even at only 30mph, seemed much faster at 900 feet in the sky. With the front car taken, we opted for second car, front row. We cruised its course twice consecutively, and was overall a pretty fun ride. Next up was Big Shot. I knew what to expect, since I had ridden Dr. Doom's Fearfall before, but the height definitely...'heightened' the experience, to say the least. Short, yes, but the initial launch was quite a rush.

We walked over to the Sahara and NASCAR Café where Speed: The Ride stood, and got in line for the front seat. What would normally be a walk-on was actually about a 10 minute wait, since the ride ops dispatched the trains in 3-5 minute intervals to allow as many seats as possible to be taken. Speed: The Ride was surprisingly headbang-free for a Premier that still has its OTSRs. We rocketed through the loop and into the second set of LIMs, which was a real treat. Up the 224-foot vertical incline, and gravity took over...as we exited the loop on the return trip, my stomach got stuck in my throat, which reminded me of why Boomerangs are generally not my favorite rides in the world. Still, Speed was a great coaster, but not the best in Vegas.

We trekked over to Circus Circus, and found our way to the Adventuredome. This is one neat little amusement park. I was quite surprised to see that Canyon Blaster was so well-hidden, and at how large the mountain actually was. The coaster was without a doubt the best-priced ride in the city, at $5 a ride. After grabbing some grub (and an Adventuredome souvenir bottle) to eliminate any motion sickness, we grabbed our tickets and headed into the front car queue. Funny thing about the automated ticket machine--when we purchased two tickets, only one came out as the computer popped up with a Microsoft-like error message that basically said 'something is wrong with this thing, so good luck figuring it out.' When the tech came over to take a look at it, it blue-screened...so if you ever wanted to know what the Canyon Blaster ticket machine's operating system is, it's Windows98. ;) Anyway, we boarded the train and (after a brief moment of Drachen Fire nostalgia) headed up the lift. At first I was expecting a Carolina Cyclone layout, but it was a bit different, and pleasantly so. The initial turnaround following the lift was tight and quick, launching us into the first drop. The back-to-back loops were good and intense, and the helix in and out of the mountain led into a nice, long curve into the brakes. The ride was smooth as glass, especially for an Arrow. Shows you what the elements can do to an aging coaster. Canyon Blaster was definitely the surprise coaster of the trip, and my favorite...so far.

Saturday, 2/8/03 - After a fantastic day spend on the strip, we finally made our way to New York, New York for a night ride on Manhattan Express. Liz's neck was sore, and she opted not to ride since I explained that ME's restraints were much like Viper's at SFGAdv. Fortunately, that's where the similarities end. I paid the outrageous $12 and waited in a pretty good-sized line. After about 20 minutes, I was nearing the entrance to the station, and the best thing that could've happened, did happen--the ride op stopped me at the front of the line because the train was full. I was able to get a front seat! (That's where my luck ended in Vegas, but that's another story). After climbing the eternal lift in the very cold, night air, we plummeted down the 144-foot, slightly curving drop and up into another large hill...then a left turn at the top, straight down again and back up...another left turn brings us to the second part of the ride--a Cyclone-like layout with a couple of inversions. The loop was fun, but the hangtime in the twist-and-dive was awesome. I was bracing for the bunny hops toward the end of the ride, but they were amazingly smooth and truly enjoyable. The final helix was nice and tight, and came up quite suddenly...and then a couple more very small, yet airtime-filled bunny hops and into the brakes. The final brake-block was quite unique (as if the rest of this coaster wasn't?) in the fact that it was a rather steep downward grade into a sharp right-hand turn (the only part that was visible from inside New York, New York's casino) that entered the station. I came off Manhattan Express wondering what so many enthusiasts complain about. Maybe they automatically label it 'rough' since it bears a Togo badge. Figures. This was the best damn Togo I've ridden, and arguably the best coaster in Las Vegas.

Sunday, 2/9/03 - Gambled (lost) some more cash in the Gold Coast casino before heading to the airport for a 5:15pm flight. Arrived at O-God:30 this morning at BWI and drove over an hour to get home. Poor Liz actually had to go to work today. :(

I didn't. :)

Well, that concludes my Las Vegas trip report. Without a doubt the best damn birthday present I've ever received.

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-Vater
Take a ride...
*** This post was edited by Vater 2/11/2003 10:07:47 AM ***

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Monday, February 10, 2003 1:44 PM
See? Other people like Manhattan Express! I'm not alone. ;)

My single ride was in the front, after waiting for an agonizing 90 minutes in that hot room. Do they still play those annoying videos?

By the way, the first drop isn't 144 feet. I think it's 70 something, and the second drop brings you all the way to the ground.

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Monday, February 10, 2003 3:28 PM
PT300, I didn't see any videos while waiting in line. I didn't even see any TVs, although I wasn't really looking.

I stand corrected about the drop heights. Must be the second one that's 144 feet.

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-Vater
Take a ride...

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Tuesday, February 11, 2003 1:00 AM
I agree with you guys ME was great! I rode it almost exactly a year ago and had a blast on it. Like you said, perhaps a lot of people pre-judge it because it's a Togo and have their mind set that it's going to be bad...when I rode it I rode it with an open mind (and mouth - during the twist and dive maneuver ;) )...

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--George H
---Superman the ride...coming to a SF park near you soon...
Currency tracking experiment... http://www.wheresgeorge.com (Referring to The "George" on the $1 bill - Not Me)

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Thursday, February 13, 2003 7:17 AM
I rode it 6 months after it opened, and loved it as well. I'm wondering if riding in the front has anything to do with it.
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I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead
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Thursday, February 13, 2003 6:47 PM
Well, the visuals are pretty phenomenal. And those headrests are tall! I can't imagine sitting anywhere else would be nearly as exhilarating.

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-Vater
Take a ride...

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Friday, February 14, 2003 4:50 AM
Great TR, Vater....and an outstanding photo of you and Liz on the strip, too!

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There's nothing like a woodie...

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Friday, February 14, 2003 6:12 AM
I have not ridden ME in a few years, yet I have been to Vegas plenty of times. I guess the price pushes me away, $12, ouch! You can get a 2 for 1 (or half off, I forget which) at Buffalo Bill's with a ride on Desperado. (one lap on Desperado is $6)

BTW, Vater how much $$$ did you lose?

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SCREAM with me... in 2003!

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Friday, February 14, 2003 8:56 AM

CPLady said:
I rode it 6 months after it opened, and loved it as well. I'm wondering if riding in the front has anything to do with it.


I think you got something there.

I rode in the front car as well and am one of of those who liked ME.

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Friday, February 14, 2003 9:09 PM
Woody - thanks for the compliments! That pic was taken last Saturday down on Fremont Street (the *old* strip). I got a bunch of Mardi Gras beads since it was my birthday (that photo was snapped before all that...).

Soggy - Let's just say I lost more than I originally planned to gamble with. ;)

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-Vater
Take a ride...

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Sunday, February 16, 2003 5:33 AM
That sounds about right. I live in Southern California, so I go to Vegas quite a bit. In 1999, I won $2400 in a total of 3 trips, but since then I think I have lost that much and more.

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SCREAM with me... in 2003!

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