On Monday, June 17 2002, most of the foremen and a few supervisors from Six Flags Over Georgia took a day trip to visit Paramount’s Carowinds in Charlotte, NC. It was a lot of fun!
First of all, I would like to say that once you have worked at an amusement park, you will never again look at any other park the same way again. We were constantly pointing out trash, open gates, and other small and stupid details about the park. Basically, we compared SFOG to PCW all day... "dueling theme parks." I even had to stop myself from closing gates in the Top Gun queue line. Anyway, imagine this with 20 ride operators and supervisors and you get: great fun!
We set off from SFOG about 6:45 AM and arrived at Carowinds at about 11:30. We parked and entered at the South Gate, near Top Gun. When we got out of the vans we gawked at it for a little bit, snagged our "free" tickets (courtesy SFOG) and entered the park. First thing we noticed was how nice the grounds were, then took a collective bathroom break and headed for Top Gun.
TOP GUN: First of all, I dislike use ratings scales, they’re just too subjective, so I will just describe them all. Anyway, I loved this coaster, second favorite in the park. The pacing wasn’t quite as fast at Batman, but was longer. We all especially enjoyed the mist-filled tunnel (you have to ride in the front to get the full effect). BTR and TG are two wicked rides, I have to say I like TG a little better though. I hella-enjoyed the inversions and landscape around the ride. I prefer the front to the back, but you don’t get a bad ride anywhere on this coaster. Thumbs up!
Next we were going to all hop on the bumper cars, but they looked terribly slow so we passed them up and headed on to THUNDER ROAD, backwards of course. We really enjoyed the plush seating on this ride, very comfortable. This was the first time I have been on a coaster backwards since GASM was run backwards in the early 90s, when I was about 10 or 11. While not much air, this was a fun coaster and pretty smooth except for two or three spots. Dropping out of the turnaround was definitely the most exciting park backwards. I still prefer GASM a little more than TR though. But not a bad coaster by any means.
After getting off TR, I saw my first Dance Dance Revolution machine, ever. I sort of knew the premise of the game, but had no idea how it worked. Another foreman played some for us. It looked kind of fun, but I don’t play games at parks generally. So onto the next ride, FLYING SUPER SATURATOR.
I’m not a big fan of water rides, but I took a spin on FSS and had a blast! I sat facing backwards and dumped my water on an unsuspecting family below the first curve off the lift. Those poor people... so innocent. Anyway, everyone in the group got a big kick out of this ride, especially the fact that you could bomb people. We all give it a thumbs up. Next, we made our way to the Boardwalk section of the park.
We all jumped aboard GOLDRUSHER, a nice mine train. The crew that day really needed to get their act together, as there were 3 or 4 people on the dock, but only one was actually checking the lap bars. I enjoyed the faster pace this ride had than the Dahlonega Mine Train at SFOG. The only gripe I had was its short duration. One more lift would have made this a great mine train. At any rate, we really enjoyed the headchoppers going down the helix after the second lift. A short but fun ride. We all noted how you could see in the computer room while sitting in the brakes before the train in the station was dispatched.
Continuing our journey, we moved on to VORTEX, an early B&M stand up. This ride looked promising, but turned out to suck a great deal. The first drop, loop, and helix thing were fun, but once you enter the corkscrew you get banged up a good amount and its just boring after that. Like a lot of B&Ms way too short. We collectively let out a "BOOO!" upon entering the brakes. Another gripe we had was they grouped you on this ride. We had to ask, "but why?" There wasn’t a line at all... seemed pretty pointless. Ride this for your coaster count, but I sincerely doubt you’ll want to ride again for your pleasure.
At this point I noticed that one of the restaurants sold beer in the park. Definitely a thumbs up to Carowinds for that. Anyway...
We all moved on to RICOCHET, a wild mouse. Let me go ahead and point out that I wasn’t expecting much out of this, as the concept of a wild mouse coaster bored me and honestly I considered them borderline kiddy coasters. I wasn’t expecting much to say the least. But WOW at this ride. Having this much fun on a coaster should be illegal! I didn’t know how hard the forces were around the corners, they took us all by surprise. We could not stop laughing and shouting "THIS IS NOT SAFE!!" while riding. It was very enjoyable to watch your coworkers get whipped around once we debarked. Ricochet was definitely the highlight of the day for all in the group, and we all rode again several times later in the day. We also got a kick out of the signage in line. One sign said "HEY! No smoking." Another proclaimed "STAY OUTTA HERE! Restricted Area." Made us laugh. My favorite Carowinds coaster.
We headed over and rode CAROLINE CYCLONE, an Arrow loopscrewish coaster. The queue and station are in desperate need of refurbishing, it looked so old and decrepit. Anyway, there’s not much to say about this ride, fairly smooth but not very exciting. Another ride you’ll probably only value for your count. Afterward we rode DROP ZONE, an Intamin drop tower. Pretty lames once you have been on Acrophobia, it felt more like a fast elevator than a freefall. We all got a kick out of the big "OVERWEIGHT" light/alarm on the verification panels in front of each carriage, so if you are too heavy, you’ll be sure to know it once you get on.
We broke off for lunch and had a Subway footlong sandwich and a drink for $11.70. I’m not going to complain because all parks all like that, but I still loathe park prices. Next, a few of us went over to HURLER. This ride looked run, but once onboard it was kind of forceless. Not much air, just a lot of Gs going around the insanely banked turns. Not a bad ride either, but seems like it could have been something more.
We wanted to ride the park’s rapids ride, RIP ROARIN’ RAPIDS, but it was closed and remained closed for a majority of the day. We moved on to POWDER KEG LOG FLUME. Much larger than SFOG’s flume, but not quite as good IMO. The ride was rough (yes, rough) in some places, and the metal grab bars in the logs contributed to the pain. The final drop was pretty fun and made it worthwhile. We then walked a little way to the THE GAUNTLET, a rainbow ride. My first time riding one in years, the first for many SFOGers. We thought it was great fun.
We all then backtracked (missed Ghoster Coaster) the way we came. Rode the Steamboat ride. We noticed on the island on the middle of the water, there appeared to be an abandoned queue line to something, and at one point someone duct-taped the word "SNIFF" to the cement. Does anyone know what this is/was?
We moved on over to a scrambler ride, KALEIDOSCOPE, which was also insanely fun. I think SFOG needs more small flat rides like scramblers, troikas, and rainbows as intermediate rides. We all took turns telling each other "DON’T SPEW!!" as we whirled around. Luckily they didn’t need to pull out the Vomit Control stuff when we got off. Some of us rode SCOOBY DOO’S HAUNTED MANSION, wherein you ride cars armed with light-guns and shoot at targets that trigger different props to move or whatever. A little fun, small kids would really enjoy it.
After this, we had pretty much hit all the bit rides and split off into small groups to ride stuff over again. Everyone hit Richochet and FSS over, and I ran into PCarowinds too around 7:00. Rode Thunder Road again, forward. We hopped over to 7TH PORTAL, a 3D motion simulator. Pretty fun and entertaining. It was getting close to closing time, so we rode Top Gun three or four times before heading out. Arrived back at SFOG around 1:30. Awake 22 hours on 4 hours of sleep. Needless to say we had a great trip but were exhausted.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT CAROWINDS: We liked the water fountains that actually chilled the water, versus the ones at SFOG that deliver lukewarm water. We decided that since Vortex was so bad, we would trade it for Georgia Scorcher and the water fountains. We liked the flatness of the park, its cleanliness, and landscaping. We noticed the queue lines for the rides weren’t nearly as big as those for SFOG, so I assume even on weekends they don’t draw huge crowds. We enjoyed the cushions on the trains of the wood coasters, which SFOG could never have due to guests who would vandalize them. All of us got a kick out of some of the signs (ala Ricochet) and the name tags of the crew memebers that said "fun technician." I wanted to go up to a worker wearing one and say "My fun is broken, fix it." We really felt that the small rides, Ricochet and FSS, made the trip worthwhile. Generally a nice park.
WHAT WE DISLIKED ABOUT CAROWINDS: The crews generally didn’t have their acts together. I doubt this was their own fault, but more the park’s problem. I think the culprit was a lack of procedure and protocol that SFOG is very reliant on. They didn’t seem to work together well, spent a lot of time on the phone, and let small children push the dispatch button on the main panel of a ride. A lot of employees were out of grooming guidelines, if there were any at all. The male employees were allowed to have long hair and wear earrings, making us go "oh my" collectively. The Hurler operator had tattoos down both arms. We saw one girl smoking next to her ride. A few were wearing Carowinds t-shirts instead of the normal shirts, a few didn’t tuck in their shirts, and they wore pretty much whatever pants and shoes they wanted. GRANTED, I know SFOG has their share of problems, but the PC just made our mouths drop sometimes. An operator at Drop Zone cussed out a guest for dropping a penny on the ride, while on Thunder Road we had a really bad encounter with an attendant there too. Like I said... I believe a lot of this is a lack of protocol and training rather than just being "bad" employees. Another gripe: Only one ATM was operational, the rest were out of money or out of order. Few and very limited gift shops and souvenirs.
FINAL VERDICT: I liked this place. In terms of coaster quality, I believe SFOG wins, but this is not to say you shouldn’t visit. Top Gun rocked, as did FSS and Ricochet (those alone make it great). All the other park stuff was nice too, and I believe I mentioned that beer is sold in the park. I give a thumbs up for Carowinds!
Scooby Doo keychain: $2.99
Ricochet T-Shirt: $9.99
Watching your supervisor getting thrashed on Ricochet: Priceless!
*** This post was edited by MisterX on 6/18/2002. ***
*** This post was edited by MisterX on 6/18/2002. ***
Nice trip report. I for one appreciate it when people take the time to read my reports! :)
Still say you shoulda let me know you were coming, and I coulda played tour guide and told you lots of things you didn't need to know. ;)
Sorrrrrrrry folks! Parks closed. The moose out front should have told you.
|| Jonathan Hawkins ||
Top Gun: TJC flights - Approx. 270 (84 in 2002)
He let the contents of the bottle do the thinking; can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.
Im surprised you found the employees to be like that. I made it out to the park earlier this year and thought the employees seemed nice. They all were wearing their Carowinds jackets (it was fairly cold) and the rides were dispatching pretty good. I do agree with you about Richochet. That was the surprise of the trip as was Flying Super Saturator. FSS was so much fun and dropping the water was great.
IMO though, Top Gun is all the park needs to get me out there. I love that ride.
-Hurler Crew 2002-
*** This post was edited by PCarowinds on 6/19/2002. ***
Not all the employees were slacking. Most of them were doing a pretty good job, but the bad ones just stood out so much, it made my mouth drop open. Plus, everyone is a little happier toward the beginning of the season than now.
I definitely agree with your statement about everyone being happier towards the beginning of the season. Im sure ill make it back to Carowinds one day this season and i hope the employees are just as nice as they were on my first trip.
"hi, my name is Tim, and im a coasterholic"...."Hi Tim!!" hehe:)
LOL, well I would rather have Carolina Cyclone than Ninja. I guess overall those "normal" Arrow and Vekoma loopers just don't do much for me.
Like I said... we'll trade stand-ups with you if you throw in the water fountains. ;)
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