Carowinds - 7/13/2010

My family vacations at Lake Norman, NC every year, and with the opening of Intimidator at Carowinds this spring, I thought that a trip to the park should be in order. So my wife and I headed there today to check it out. I should mention that my park experience consists of a lifetime full of countless trips to Cedar Point, with a few Kings Island excursions thrown in, so I don't have much to go on by way of comparison.

We arrived shortly after 10:00 to find the parking lot mostly empty. I took this as a good omen. The park entrance seemed pretty nice, and we were through the gates and headed to Intimidator in no time. The ride was practically a walk-on, and we only had to wait about two trains for the front seat. Now as I mentioned, I've only ever been to CP and KI, and my last trip to KI was several years ago, so I have never ridden a B&M hyper. I was very eager to finally get on one. Intimidator impressed me, but I wasn't blown away. The ride was buttery smooth, which I expected, and contained much of the floater B&M airtime that I've been hearing about for years. I liked the steepness of the hills, and loved the hammerhead, but having the brake run so late into the ride made the ending seem somewhat anticlimactic. Again, it was impressive, and very comfortable, but not overly forceful. I'm now determined to get to KI again soon to ride Diamondback, and I'd love to get on some of the older hypers so I have some more experiences on this type of ride.

After Intimidator we rode Afterburn in the front seat, another walk-on. I thought this ride was extremely fun, if a bit short. This was followed by a spin on the Southern Star (not very enjoyable, the restraints were painful) and another ride on Afterburn, this time in the back seat. No matter how many times I experience it, I'm always surprised by the difference between a front seat and back seat ride. We whipped around the first drop and all the elements seemed much more forceful. I don't like not being able to see what's coming, but I do like the violence of a back seat ride. And, being a B&M, the ride is very smooth despite its age.

At this point we walked to the North Carolina portion of the park and rode Vortex, Cyclone, Drop Tower, Hurler, Scream Weaver, Ricochet, and the Scrambler. Vortex was the only one of these that wasn't a walk-on, and I'm sure it's because it's a stand-up with long load times. I liked it, it was much more enjoyable for me than Mantis and ended before it started to get painful. Hurler was running pretty well too, but the Carolina Cyclone was very rough. I had never been on a Mack wild mouse and really enjoyed Ricochet.

After all of this, my wife really wanted to get a henna tattoo, so we walked back to the County Fair area in order to have this done. Of course, I couldn't be bothered with such nonsense, so I rode Afterburn twice while I waited for her, and then hit Thunder Road. Thunder Road was without a doubt the least enjoyable experience I have ever had on a roller coaster. I've ridden Mean Streak at its worst and Thunder Road was much, much rougher. However, I don't know if I can place all of the blame on the ride itself - I was completely alone in my car (the second), and there were maybe six people total in the whole train. Without the added weight of other riders it was unbearably rough. Needless to say there were no re-rides.

Tattoo complete, my wife hooked back up with me and we got in line for Nighthawk. This was the longest wait of the day, at about 30 minutes. I had never ridden a flyer before, and even though the consensus seems to be that the B&Ms blow Vekomas away, I was really excited to get on this ride. I found it to be quite a bit of fun. I loved the first drop heading toward the water, and the ride was reasonably smooth. Much like Vortex, it was short enough that it ended before it started to inflict serious pain, so that was a definite plus.

Speaking of pain, we ate a late lunch after Nighthawk. Two cheeseburgers, two fries, and two drinks set us back $30 at the Joe Cool Cafe. I've been hearing about the ridiculous Cedar Fair food prices for some time, but this was my first experience with them. (We always eat off site when we go to CP.) When the girl who rang us up gave me the total all I could do was laugh. At least the burgers were pretty big and the fries stayed crispy.

Intimidator was a walk-on virtually all day, so we went back for a couple rides; another front seat and a back seat. The air on the back seat ride was unbelievable, especially on the first drop. Afterward we realized that we somehow missed the Carolina Cobra and Carolina Goldrusher, so we rode those. I loved the soft restraints on the Cobra, and Goldrusher was an enjoyable, somewhat smooth mine train coaster. At this point the skies opened up with a furious downpour that lasted all of five minutes, but sent the humidity skyrocketing; we decided to formulate an exit strategy. We rode Afterburn one more time in the front seat, and took three spins on Intimidator before riding the Skytower and calling it a day. It was about 7:00 when we left.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable day. I was expecting Cedar Point Lite, and wasn't disappointed. Intimidator and Afterburn are great coasters with much potential for re-riding; I felt like I could marathon either of them for a long time. A couple of the coasters seemed pretty short, especially compared to the monsters at CP - Afterburn especially. (Yeah I know I just said it was great, but it was a bit short! :) )We were hitting the brakes when I felt like we should be starting the second half. One thing about the day really bothered me - not a single coaster was running all of its trains, and on most of them, that meant a single train operation. One of the ride hosts gave a very nebulous explanation for this involving the weather, does anyone else have any insight? The park was in great shape, clean, and with good looking landscaping, most of the employees were cheerful and courteous, and as I've mentioned several times, the waits were a non-factor. I definitely plan on returning next year.

Nice trip report. I'm glad you had a good day there. The park has come a long way since the Paramount days. I'm happy about the fact that they've decided to invest some real $$ in the park and the results certainly reflect that.

Cedar Fair's rain policy as I understand it is that a coaster with two-train operation will go down to one train, and a coaster with three train operation will go down to a maximum of two AND leave an additional block between the two trains. The policy can be put into effect at any time they deem there's rain in the area, which seems to be more and more arbitrary these days.

I went to Kings Island yesterday and they were running their coasters in rain mode (sans Beast) even though the rain that had been in the area all day had passed and the nearest rain was 25 miles away. Backlot Stunt Coaster was running one train and was sporting a 45 minute wait when it should have been 10 or 15. Unacceptable. It sometimes feels like it's just a money saving move to go to rain mode, but it'd be nice for them to use a little common sense and actually put thought into whether running the rides in rain mode makes sense given all circumstances.

*edited for punctuation

Last edited by Gary Dowdell,
Tekwardo's avatar

Thunder Road was without a doubt the least enjoyable experience I have ever had on a roller coaster

I don't know what is up with Thunder Road. They're not completely done working on it, but at the end of last year, I rode it and it was great (it had been getting much better with the work they've done). I rode it 2 weeks ago for my first time this year, on the silver side, and it was terrible! And I love Thunder Road.

As for Hurler, they added a trim after the first drop. It's very meh now to me.

Glad you had fun, I'm heading there on Friday after work.

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rollergator's avatar

That trim on Hurler was an utter and complete buzzkill - unnnecessary IMO due to the extreme banking of that first turn.

Thunder Road - seems like the "right" side (the one closer to/further in NC?) was somewhat better - but both sides were not doing too swell. Could see the new work, but that this is WAY rougher than I remember from previous visits....

The bummer is the park now has two or three "world-class" steel coasters (defined liberally at Top Gun, Stealth, and Timmy-232). But now the wood collection is pretty terrible - and not TOO long ago the wood was some of the best in the (PP) chain!

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Tekwardo's avatar

Yeah, Hurler was running FINE last year. Wasn't too rough, gave some decent air. The trim kills it, I have no desire to ride.

I don't know what's up with TR. Seriously, last year it ran fine, but jackhammered so bad 2 weeks ago, I couldn't wait to get off. I'm just hoping when the wood working is done, it'll be a fun ride again. I felt it getting better, but maybe I just caught it on a bad day (which was in the same week you rode it, Gator).

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