Camden Park, May 25, 2003

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Monday, May 26, 2003 5:58 PM
Camden Park
May 25, 2003

I was in Huntington, West Virginia for the Rally For America and figured while I was there I would not miss up a chance to visit Huntington's Camden Park. The rally ran much longer then expected, and I had to wait until Sunday morning to visit the park.

So, I pull into an almost empty parking lot at 11 AM. The day was beautiful, sunny, and about 70 degrees. Right in front of me is the Thunderboltbolt Express. It was so sad to see it, standing unused and rusting to nothing. I had only ever ridden one Arrow looper before, The defunct Lightning Loops at Great Adventure. Oh well, I am making a stop at Fun Spot in June, so I will get my chance to ride one then. A friend, Martha, and her kids, Laura and Brian, were to meet me at the park at 11. They had stayed at a different hotel, and as the norm for Martha, were running a bit behind. That was OK, I headed into the park.

I could not resist getting a quick ride on the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is not really that big, standing at about 50 feet tall, but it runs with the Cadillac of coaster trains, old NAD trains. These are wonderful train, big, heavy, comfortable, and no seat dividers, which makes for a great, interactive ride as you are slammed into your ridding partner. And the Big Dipper does that quite well.

After the lift hill, you go into a small, bone jarring dip, followed by the turnaround. Next comes a drop to the ground, which proves to have some nice airtime in the back seat. Out of this drop is another small dip, also providing some sweet airtime, and then the second turnaround into a long strait away. The coaster now drops down and pulls up into the tunnel and the third turnaround, which has plenty of those laterals, a nice touch in the darkness of the tunnel. After dipping out of the tunnel, the coaster goes diagonally over a bunny hop and then into the break run. An interesting thing that I noticed about this coaster is that it uses manual pinch brakes, instead of the skid brakes That I had expected to see. The ride also has two trims on it, one before the second turnaround, and one after the same turnaround.

Getting off the Big Dipper, I just happened to see Martha's car pull into the parking lot, so I headed over to the main gate and meet her and the kids there.

Laura had been to Dorney just the week before, and the first thing she said to me was "This park looks so lame." I laughed. Martha and I headed off for the Big Dipper, while the kids were not quite ready for the coaster, so they went ahead and jumped on the neighboring Paratrooper.

After the Big dipper we hit the Round-up, which they call the Rainbow at Camden Park, and then the Haunted House beckoned. The Haunted House was unimpressive, with very little that jumped out at you. Most parts were just enclosed scenes, that while well taken care of, were small and had little to no action.

After a quick spin on the Scrambler, we caught up to the kids, who were having a great time, and we headed over to the Whip and then the Dodgems. The Dodgems did not hit real hard, but you could still get some nice hits in, though I could not get them to spin out the other cars. We got a nice, extended ride, since we were the only ones on the ride, and when a teen couple came in line, the ride op simply stopped the ride, let them on, and started the ride again.

Next up is the Lil' Dipper. This was my first ride on a NAD junior coaster, which has the same fantastic looking cars as it's bigger cousin, just in a smaller size. It was a fun little out and back coaster.

On to the Log Flume we went, with it's green, yes, green water. It was a nice little flume, following the ground through a large swampy area that is covered in cat tails. The flume has two lifts and drops, and it seemed that the first, smaller drop is the one that could get you wettest, if you decide to sit up front, since it seems the log plows into the water, swamping the front seat. I sat in the back, letting Martha get the brunt of that.

We worked our way around the neighboring lake, to the new Kite Flyer hidden there on the other side of the lake. The Kite Flyer was fun, but it seemed to be a bit slow, uncomfortable, and not all that thrilling.

We now worked our way back through the park, hitting some rides over again, and the Big Dipper several times again, before finally leaving at about 2 PM.

The park was nice and well kept, but the Big Dipper could really use a paint job, it is pealing all over the place. The Big Dipper did get a substantial amount of new wood on the off season, and ran smoothly, with the exception of the very first dip.

The food was also pretty good, and reasonably priced, though I felt the entrance fee of 17.99 was a bit steep. I think the park would do better with a low or no entrance fee and instead go with a pay as you go plan, with the optional POP. This would make the park a lot more family friendly, and it may not end up empty on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. There is also a $3 parking fee. The gift shop had no real souvenirs, which disappointed me, since I like to bring home a pin or some post cards.

All in all, it was a fun trip, and the kids ended up having a great time. I was glad to have taken the extra time to come back into town to visit the park (like I wouldn't have).

You can check out the photos I took of this trip here:

"If you make it too smooth, it'll be like sitting in your living room."
-Bill Cobb - Designer, Texas Cyclone


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