Dorney Park, Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
First and foremost: On behalf of myself and I'm sure Give Kids the World as well, thank you to those who sponsored me for Coasting for Kids 2010. Also, thank you to the Dorney crew for being such great hosts this year.
Rain opened up the event, beginning just at the conclusion of breakfast and lasting into the first few laps of the morning marathon. Nonetheless, spirits were high and enthusiasm was evident pretty much throughout the entire train...
...for the first few laps, anyway. But more on ongoing joke two later.
We were all pretty excited to get underway, even in the face of the rain drops hitting us at high speeds. Thankfully, by around lap three, the rain began to subside and the sun broke through. Cloud cover crept up every now and then through the morning marathon, but the weather proved extremely cooperative throughout the day.
Lap five saw one rider get sick, and it would be the only instance of that occurring during the entire event. That's pretty impressive if you ask me, Steel Force's rather basic layout notwithstanding, and even that rider would come back for more rides later without incident.
The beginning of lap eleven saw the introduction of the first ongoing joke of the event: special laps. Carrie, mocking the way some people are adamant that some rides are far more awesome under certain conditions and discussing this with her friend Jill, blurted out in reference to lap ten, "Ten was SO much better than nine!" in reference to a fictional difference in greatness between the two laps. Bouts of laughter cropped up throughout the train. More lap amusement would come about later.
As we pressed on into the teens, it seemed that Dorney's annual Halloween Haunt event had begun judging by the number of zombies present throughout the train. We'd hit the final brakes, roll around to the second set of brakes by the transfer track, and the train would be struck with a deathly silence. Clapping and enthusiasm would finally ensue (sometimes) as we rolled into the station, but it would again cease pretty much once the station perimeter had been cleared. Not wanting to seem out of place, I'd happily cheer on the roll out from the station, but once that railing was cleared, that was it. Ditto for the return to the station. No cheering until the station perimeter railing had been passed. Cheering elsewhere seemed to be strictly taboo. Hence the comment about boundaries, which Carrie used in reference to my joking refusal to avoid cheering anywhere else most of the time.
That was ongoing joke number two.
Also, going back to the first ongoing joke, lap twenty-six was clearly the finest lap of the morning session. The temperature clearly was just right, with the wind currents really working for the train's momentum. For those who experienced it, only you will be privileged enough to carry with you the excellence that the twenty-sixth circuit. The extra 1/16th of a g (mostly vertical, as it only saw an increase in laterals of 1/28th of a g) that it pulled through that helix really made all the difference.
A little before one in the afternoon, we were pulled for the first of two group photos. Some, noting that it wasn't quite time for lunch yet, went back and snagged a couple extra laps. A fellow rider named Dave and I grabbed a quick spin on Possessed before meeting back up at lunch.
Lunch brought it's own interesting experience at the expense of yours truly. A couple folks from ACE joined Carrie, Jill, and myself for lunch. One gentleman from that organization asked me to what enthusiast organization(s) I belonged and if I was a member of ACE. I replied that I had been in the past and would likely be again, but that right now the Coasterbuzz Club was it for me. He replied, in a tone that suggested an inferiority (and I think may not have been intentional, because he was actually a pretty nice guy), "Oh, they have a club now?"
I was like, "Yes...," and in the same tone as before he replied, "And what are they calling themselves?"
Fantastic. Now things were getting worse because his tone was making it seem like the Coasterbuzz Club was not fit for truly elite enthusiasts. Not that I really cared, and again, I'm not totally convinced he meant it the way his tone made it sound, especially given his otherwise amicable attitude. After feebly searching for an eject handle on the picnic table bench to rocket me to safety from the awkward situation, I quickly replied, knowing I'd already said the name, "The Coasterbuzz Club," and began praying for a change of subject.
I would get it, but I wouldn't escape from the awkward situation just yet. We got to talking about where I lived, and I explained I lived between Baltimore and D.C. He then asked why I picked Dorney over Kings Dominion, which is just under an hour closer to me. I decided to use the expression Carrie used on here (and which we both used throughout the day as ongoing joke number three) and said, "Because Dorney's where it's at!" He then got a puzzled look on his face, and after a pause, asked, "Where what's at?"
Quick aside, but that was ongoing joke number three. In the afternoon, random oddities were where it was at. The one rock in the employee lot, the helix, and fear-inducing sounds were where it was at.
Back to the awkward lunch-time conversation, I have a hard time keeping a straight face, and it didn't help that Carrie turned and seemed to be fighting laughter, which, already being contagious, I'm extremely susceptible to. Now, I thought that "where it's at" was a pretty universal expression indicating the cool place to be. Anyway, I was already fighting laughter myself, and Carrie was starting to lose it. I stammered out the best reply I could, just saying, "Uh...it? Um... Dorney's where...it's...happening?" Continuing the downhill trend, he then said, "Huh...I thought it was happening at ten other places today as well," in a tone that indicated that yes, he knew it was happening across the chain and that I must've been some clueless nut to give the reply I did. For a minute there, I would've agreed with him, because I must have been a pretty clueless nut to try keeping the deteriorating line of conversation alive.
As for his last comment along that line, how I survived it without laughing, I'll never know, because I really thought I'd be on the ground in hysterics at that point. As it would turn out, again, I would later wind up riding a few laps with him, and again, he was actually a really nice guy and a pleasure to ride with. Even the remainder of the lunch conversation was enjoyable. I just had to survive being portrayed as some absent-minded weirdo for a few minutes to get to that point.
The lunch break concluded and we headed back for group photo number two as well as some interviews. Once all that was said and done, the second round began.
The second round was actually more impressive overall than the first in terms of the endurance of the participants. There didn't seem to be as many breaks taken by people as there were during the first marathon, which shocked me. I figured lunch would make things far more difficult, but I was proven wrong with several, if not all, people outdoing the length of their morning runs.
Around lap fifteen, with the zombie nature again present throughout most of the train, I decided that I was going to make Steel Force, and lap fifteen, the most exciting ride on the face of the Earth. Yes, even better than lap four of the afternoon, which was another winner ;) On lap fifteen, everything was absolutely incredible. I cheered for the slight turn to the left to engage the lift, the employee lot, the midcourse, you name it. I even swallowed some g-force as I ascended into the helix. I got a few laughs for my efforts, but I think most of those were due to the fact that my voice kept cracking during a lot of the cheers. Really, I sounded like a total tool, but I'm okay with that.
Lap fifteen also brought the arrival of the frightening mechanical sounds. I had noticed earlier in the day that the first car was riding kind of funny up the lift, tipping from side to side. I attributed it to the chain dog maybe riding a little low on the car, causing a gap between the main wheels, the rail, and also the upstops, which would explain the tipping to one side. Near the top of the lift on lap fifteen, there was a loud THUNK, followed by the train tipping off to the right. It wasn't repeated (thankfully), but it led to every odd sound getting laughs out of us. So there you have ongoing joke number four: terrifying sounds of potential doom.
The afternoon marathon was fraught with laughs caused by other things. Carrie began doing a cheer that sounded like it belonged in a union picket line. "Who is it for? THE KIDS! What'll we give 'em? THE WORLD!" Good times. That was just part of ongoing joke number five, where everything was for the kids. Employee lot for the kids, Whipping It for kids, midcourse brakes for kids, you name it. Also, the air compressor on the final set of brakes right outside the station got a few laughs as well. For a few laps, it made a sound like a cork popping. Then it switched on two of the laps to a sound that resembled the fart. The first time it did it, I don't think the laughing stopped until we cleared the lift on the next lap. I think the air compressor was ongoing joke number six, for those of you keeping count.
The marathon ended up being extended to allow those who rode the extra few laps between the first group photo and lunch to get seventy-five laps total on the day. I came in at seventy one, having done the thirty-one laps that comprised the first marathon and the even forty of the second. Kudos to Dorney for letting us hit those milestones.
The second marathon completed, we headed back to the catering area for the final "ceremony" where the top fundraisers were announced and the gifts and awards given out to the participants. Kudos again to Carrie for taking the top spot at Dorney and the second highest chain-wide.
After all was said and done, the groups went their separate ways. Carrie, Jill, and I went over to Dominator to start off the conclusion of the day, where Carrie mentioned the idea of "Shooting Up for Kids," an event where one could ride the Power Shot side of the tower ;)
Jill sat out Dominator, but joined us for Hydra and Talon. The sun setting, and me having doubled back for one more lap on each of the two B&M's, I began my journey home.
Closing with some final thoughts, I think Dorney did a stellar job hosting the event. The morning marathon may have been cut slightly short, but they more than made up for it with the extra laps at the end to take some participants to their milestones. I really appreciated that, even if I was pretty sore at that point. I also thought it was great that the fundraising efforts at Dorney were the highest per-person of any park. I know I was getting very frustrated when I was struggling even to get the fifty required to actually attend (and again, a BIG thank-you to the "anonymous" donor who got me to that point), but I wound up successful at that and even doubling it (I'm hoping I can coax some of my friends and family who promised donations to make some post-event donations). Lastly, I think it was also awesome to see such varied demographics within the participant group. You had the diehard coaster crazies, the average, everyday enthusiasts, the family of season pass-holders (including an intrepid five-year-old), the children's business owner, and a few others thrown in for good measure. It was like the Real World for coaster fans. I had a great time, and I hope my fellow participants at Dorney and other parks did as well.
Oh, and Carrie, I'm sorry to only be telling this to you now, but lap 32 in the afternoon was just as good, if not better than, lap 26 in the morning. I didn't have the heart to tell you Thursday, because I didn't want to crush you with the knowledge that you missed another amazing one, but I'm sorry, I really can't contain the excitement about it any longer.
13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones
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