Big Trip 2001 : Pt. 1 : Hershey

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Wednesday, June 20, 2001 12:43 AM

The Big Trip 2001 :
Eastern PA Tour
Hershey / Knoebels / Dorney
June 11-13, 2001


Day 1 :
Hershey, PA
June 11, 2001


After months of anticipation and planning, the day finally came. Four young, ready-to-ride coaster enthusiasts consisting of myself (Matt Lynch), Joe Cernelli, Jeff Gaddis, and Jason Rollison piled into a car, luggage in tow, and set sail from Uniontown, Pennsylvania en route to Hersheypark, Knoebel's Grove, and Dorney Park in Eastern Pennsylvania. Reservations had been made, money previously set aside was now in our pockets, and our minds were set for some hardcore coaster riding at some of PA's bests.

The trip from Uniontown to Hershey, the first stop on the trip, is about three-and-a-half hours long. For those of you who love details, you'll note that our CD player was blasting everything from Steely Dan to Led Zeppelin to Electric Light Orchestra to Weezer to Eve 6, even a little Garth Brooks. (No Tom Waits or Dylan, Dave. ;))

Since I wasn't the driver and had no hand in the directions, I didn't know we'd be traveling past Harrisburg. I was really caught off-guard when I looked to my left and saw the Capital building. I like that kind of stuff.

A bit later, I saw something else on my left I didn't expect: Great Bear. We had arrived in Hershey and were on our way to the Cocoa Nights Motel, which would be our home later that evening. After checking in, we headed for the park.

We paid a fairly reasonable $6 for parking and took the tram to the park entrance. The operator delivering the spiel was pretty clever, and actually convinced us to check out Chocolate World, which we hit later in the day. "Please look at my roof. It does not move, and it *will* hurt when you hit it."

On our way down to the main gate, a woman in front of us handed us some coupons for $7 off, which lowered the all-day-ride price to $27. As some had suggested to us, we headed right for Midway America, more specifically, Wildcat and Lightning Racer. LR hadn't been running at all from what we saw, so we headed to Wildcat first, which ended up being a walk-on.

Rollison, standing 6'6" and weighing in around 270 lbs. or so, wasn't so sure about whether or not he'd fit. After sitting in the train and trying to buckle the belt, he realized he couldn't. A tad embarrassed, he walked away from the train and waited for the exit.

I was pretty excited about my first GCI coaster, but other than that, I wasn't all that interested. Wildcat's a great coaster, sure, but nothing that really hit home with me.

While on Wildcat, we saw Lightning Racer was operating, and we immediately headed to it when our ride was over. *This* was the ride I was excited about at Hershey. Roll was hesitant about attempting to get on this ride after the incident on Wildcat, but he decided to try it.

The wait was about 4 trains or so. Joe and I lined up for Thunder while Roll and Gaddis were in Lightning's queue. We eyed up the lovely, freaky trains and sat down in. I saw Roll sit down, but after I sat, I couldn't see him anymore. "Prepare to DUEL!" The ride started.

The drop's a lot like Wildcat's, but somehow (probably due to the Millennium Flyer trains) better. I'm really not a laterals fan at all, so I was a little weary about getting knocked around... but dear God, can these things track! It almost felt wrong how smooth this thing was, but man, I loved it.

Naturally, I was looking for Roll and Gaddis in the opposite train on the "near-misses," but I only saw Gaddy. While sitting on the brake run after (winning) the ride, I screamed to Jeff and asked what was up. "No go!" he said.

Roll was waiting for us at the exit where he informed us that the lap bar wouldn't come down far enough to lock. Two coasters attempted, zero ridden. Discontent fell upon the group.

We left Midway America, which I might add is a very nicely kept area, but I'm a huge proponent of shade (which it lacks), and headed towards Sidewinder. Roll decided not to ride, but because he's not a loop fan, not because of the previous incidents.

I'd only been on one boomerang before, Six Flag Geauga Lake's Mind Eraser, and didn't like it, especially the backwards run, but I thought I'd give this one a try. We only had to wait one train, but that was enough to see that Hershians aren't really big fans of the ride. (Both the lack of line and the moans and groans of the exiting riders brought me to that conclusion.) This one seemed a little smoother than SFWoA's, but still extremely uninteresting.

The temperature and humidity was getting up there. That, combined with my black "The Moose is Loose" (hey, I'm a Pittsburgh Penguins fan) t-shirt sent me right to the Ben & Jerry's stand near Sidewinder for a drink. I specifically went there because the line was about 1/4 the size of Taco Bell's...

About ten minutes later, I had my drink. There were 7 people walking around in the small stand, and only one was "serving" the customers. (I use quotes because it was more like giving the customers what they paid for while griping to the other workers about how "swamped" she was with customers.) The discontent grew.

After I had finished my drink and Gaddis had finished his Boardwalk Fries, we started for Trailblazer. I didn't know the layout of the ride, but from what I saw, it looked like it could be really fun. We walked into the station to find another walk-on. Joe, Gaddis, and I all sat down and secured ourselves with no problem, but the lapbar wouldn't fit around Rollison's legs. He left the ride.

The ride was extremely uneventful. From what I remember from my one ride, it's only one helix, a mid-course brake, and a 540-degree helix. I expected it to be a big longer, but what can you do. We met up with Roll at the bottom of the exit ramp.

Four coaster rides for us, zero for Rollison. He was extremely upset over the day's events and said he was contemplating trying to get a refund, which we all agreed was in order.

Since we figured he'd have a better shot at riding Great Bear than anything else in the park, that's where we went. We were all happy to see a test seat waiting at the entrance, but that joy quickly disappeared when we found the seat belt wouldn't reach the buckle on the over-the-shoulder restraint. Ride number 4 he couldn't fit on.

We continued through the queue, but after seeing a long line and one-train operation, we decided to skip it until later. We met up with Roll again and moved to sooperdooperLooper.

At first, I was excited about this little ride. I had never been on a coaster with loops (well, a loop) that didn't have OTSR's before, so this was a new experience. Roll tried this coaster, but the lap bar was nowhere near fitting. He left, disappointed again.

Like I say, I was excited about this new experience. That is, *until* I saw how minimal the restraints were. As we headed up the lift, I started really freaking out, screaming whatever obscenity came to mind. Luckily, the loop was fine and actually quite thrilling. The other two guys didn't really like the ride, but I got a kick out of it. (If the ride DID have OTSR's, it'd be a severe dud.)

At this point, we were tired of the old runaround with Roll and these coasters, and since he was on the tightest budget of all of us on this trip, he decided to go ask for a refund. We headed to Guest Services.

We were cordial with them, and they were more than gracious with us. The girl at the desk said she had to ask a ride supervisor if refunds can be given for the situation, and after a moment on the phone, roll had his $27 back in pocket.

Knowing he wouldn't fit, Rollison decided to skip Comet while we all took a ride. I wasn't expecting this ride to be as rough as it was. I had a sharp pain in my back after the first drop, which wasn't helped by the rest of the ride. It has a nice, decently sized layout, but I didn't feel much air the whole ride.

A lot of people had mentioned in response to my suggestion post that Mamma Ilardo's pizza is some of the best pizza around, and I'd have to agree. We stopped in the building above the concert hall near Great Bear and had a few slices. Good stuff!

From there, we headed back to Midway America to hit Herhsey's last coaster, Wild Mouse. We got Roll to come with us. It was a tight fit (hell, it was tight fit for me, too), but he did fit. I'm not a huge fan of wild mice, and this one was on par with that.

After that, we went for a few re-rides on Wildcat, sooperdooperLooper, and, of course, Lightning Racer.

I had only been on Thunder, so I thought I'd give Lightning a whirl. The wait was minimal, about two or three trains. (The ride only ran one train per side all day.) Thunder was good, but Lightning was GREAT! I don't know how much different each side is if they are at all, but there's something about Lightning that just, in my opinion, makes that ride something to write home about. I rode that side three more times before we decided to head on out. I picked up a Lightning Racer pin, as they didn't have my size (XXL) in the shirt I wanted.

We looked around a few more shops before we left the park for the day. We took the little tour/ride in Chocolate World and got our free sample just before the place closed.

Hersheypark is not a place I plan on going back any time soon. Rollison not fitting on the coasters was, obviously, a huge letdown, but even without that, I just didn't have that much fun at the park. The coasters are great, but the flat rides are less-than-stellar...

Plus, the park is horribly laid out, I think. It's so long from end to end and seems to take years to get from place to place. Maybe it's just big (which it is), but it seems like an awful layout to me.

I asked the guys numerous times, "How can a park this big NOT have some sort of mass transport system to take you from at least one end of the park to another. Well, we figured it out. The place is just LINED with shops and souvenir stalls. Rollison hit the nail on the head when he made the comment that the park seems to be more concerned about selling you chocolate and t-shirts than they are providing you with a good time of riding.

We headed back to the also-much-less-than-stellar Cocoa Nights Motel after seeing what the town of Hershey had to offer (not much, from what we saw.)

Hershey's got some great coasters, but I just didn't like the park.


Coming up next :
Day 2
Knoebel's Grove


Matt Lynch
Co-Webmaster, Kennywood Boulevard
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 6:04 AM
Sorry you had such a bummer of a time. I was there a couple weeks ago, and really liked it.

I'm also a big guy, but didn't have any problems with their rides (although I seemed to "just fit" into everything). Did your friend try using one of the orange "extendor" pieces for the seat belts on Wildcat. An op saw I was having problems, and offered one to me right away. *** This post was edited by chris on 6/20/2001. ***
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 6:15 AM
Orange extender pieces? They got those? Details... I want details!

"I wasn't always this cynical, but then I started kindergarden..."
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 6:20 AM
I wasn't going to be sitting next to him, so by the time I sat down and secured myself, he was already at the exit. He didn't asked for help, either, since afterwards when I asked why he didn't, he said he didn't want to go through the embarrassment of having workers try to fit him into a ride.

Thanks for the tip about "extendor" pieces for seat belts. Next time we're in the situation, we'll ask an operator beforehand if they use these.

Matt Lynch
Co-Webmaster, Kennywood Boulevard
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 6:23 AM
They are about 6" long pieces of seat belt that literally extend the length of the belt on the ride. The have about 4 or 5 of them that hang on nails on the booth at the front of the station.
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 5:34 PM
Poor Roll. I find it gratifying that he got his refund. And on Great Bear did he try seats in row 5 or 6? One of those rows on B&M inverteds usually has a different set-up with the OTSRS for large people. I can't remember if GB does, or Talon either. I know Alpengeist does.

I know you rider Gonna miss me when I'm gone
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 5:47 PM
I feel bad for your friend. Unless he loses weight though I think he's going to encounter this problem at more parks. Remember most of these rides are designed for Europeans who are generally smaller framed than Americans are. All in all I find the layout of HP no worse than Cedar Point or BGW in terms or the walk between rides. I agree the Midway America/Counry section could use a lot more trees. You literally bake out there.
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 5:58 PM
He tried the test seat, but the OTSR didn't come down far enough so he couldn't buck the belt. That was the problem.

When we got into the station later in the day, (remember, we skipped Great Bear after seeing a long line), we saw that row 5 was labeled for larger riders. (Dorney's Talon had larger seats in both rows 4 and 5.) Though we weren't sure if the test seat was one of the larger seats, we didn't pressure him to go on.

After some more consideration and seeing replies here and on r.r-c, I think my complaints about the layout of the park were due in part to the fact that we weren't having a very good time there. Cedar Point does have a comparable layout, but I guess at CP, I didn't mind walking from end to end, you know?

Matt Lynch
Co-Webmaster, Kennywood Boulevard
Thursday, June 21, 2001 1:06 PM
Sorry about Roll's bad time (and your only average) time at Hershey. Some comments if I may...

Regarding Wildcat -- this is one of the harder coasters to fit in if you're "bigger" in any aspect. That lap bars are pretty unforgiving, but they do have those extender belts if the seat belt is the problem.

Regarding Lightning Racer -- the restraint system is definitely more forgiving than Wildcat's, but still has some issues. No extender belts are available.

Regarding trailblazer -- the most difficult ride to fit in I've ever ridden. The lap bars give me grief and I'm only 5'11" / 150lbs!! Anyway... I don't ride this "coaster" because it's the biggest waste of space ever. It's easily the worst mine train ever created.

Regarding Great Bear -- I'm 99% sure Rolls would have fit in the row 5 seat. The belt configuration is different. I've only seen one person who didn't fit in the row 5 seat and he was EXTREMELY overweight(we're talking 350+) and also moderatelly tall.

Regarding looper -- This is another unforgiving ride when it comes to larger people. I'm glad you liked the ride, though.

Regarding comet -- As I said before, I'm not that big of a person, but I'm not small either. I get a lot of airtime on this ride. Back seat, hands up the entire ride.

Regarding Wildmouse -- um... Rolls actually fit in this coaster? That seems unreal to me because, besides trailblazer, this is easily the second hardest ride to fit in! We have to turn away more people on mouse than on LR, 'Cat, and Bear combined.

Midway America does have lots of trees -- they just aren't big yet! Give it time. (of course, who really wants to wait 30 years for shade, lol)

I'm glad he got his refund -- Hersheypark is usually reasonable with these types of things.
Thursday, June 21, 2001 2:15 PM
I think he was able to get in the Wild Mouse by sheer determination. It took a lot of work, and it ended up being a pretty painful ride, but he rode. ;)

Do you happen to know if the test seat at Great Bear's entrance is one of the larger seats? That would explain it...

Matt Lynch
Co-Webmaster, Kennywood Boulevard
Thursday, June 21, 2001 3:47 PM
The test seat is not one of the larger seats. On the larger seats, the belts come sort of from the sides, rather than the direct bottom.
Thursday, June 21, 2001 11:16 PM
That's incredibly stupid, if you ask me. What's the point of a test seat if it's not the biggest seat on the ride?

They should put the larger seats on the test model and make a note that the big seats are only found in rows 4 or 5 or wherever they're available.

Matt Lynch
Co-Webmaster, Kennywood Boulevard
Friday, June 22, 2001 8:25 AM
It seems dumb to me as well. I think Hershey put it out there so people knew how the seat worked - just like the test seat belts when you're in line for the Wildcat.

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