Parks Visited: Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix, Lagoon, Lakeside, Six Flags Elitch Gardens, and Mile High Flea Market
Weather: Pretty hot in Vegas and Salt Lake City, perfect in Denver, chilly in the Rockies, and furnace-like for the drive home
Miles Driven: 2256
Total Miles Driven For Out Of State Credits This Year: 6676
Driving Through The Rockies: Priceless
Personnel: Mostly by myself, but met up with Mike "Instigator" Kallay in Denver
Lagoon Amusement Park in Salt Lake City has always enticed me. I’ve always wanted to go to Salt Lake City as well; after visiting the National Parks in
southern Utah a few years back, I really developed a love for the state. There’s lots of scenic areas in the country but Utah is just about my favorite.
While planning a family vacation earlier this year, I noted that I had a free week at a time-share of my choice to use, and in looking through the time-share catalog I noticed they had a property in Montana, just outside of Yellowstone National Park. I’m also a bit of an outdoors junkie, in addition to being a coaster enthusiast, and Yellowstone is probably at
the top of my list of parks to visit. My trip-planner brain kicked into overdrive and I determined that the best way to reach Yellowstone would be
via Interstate 15, through Salt Lake City. Since I would be driving 2 under-age-10 children in the SUV, I knew we would need a break on the long
drive, and my kids are always up for a new park. All the plans were put in to place, but fate would not cooperate, as we were unable to get the
timeshare on the week we wanted. We are now trying to get it for next year, but in the meantime the family vacation was taken to Pismo Beach instead,
and fun was had by all.
Unfortunately, my desire to get to Lagoon would not be so easily sated. I began to discuss an insane, Cannonball Run-style weekend trip to the park with
Moosh. The plan grew and grew, changing from July to August, and then grew again to include Denver when we realized we could fit in the ACE events
planned for the first weekend in August. The drives seemed long but doable; funny how easy it is to decide a drive looks easy based upon
little lines on a map. The size of the group grew as well, with Tony Milano and Brian "Swervo" signing on as well. Plans were afoot to rent an SUV and
it seemed like this would be a memorable, if hectic, trip. Well, I was right about that; all three of my compadres had to cancel due to financial or work-related reasons in the last two weeks leading up to the trip. But, since I’m an idiot, I decided to go anyways. I had already asked for the time off and my bud Mike Kallay had already made flight
reservations to meet us (errr, me) in Denver. As the time neared for departure, I started to get really nervous. Could I handle approximately 34
hours of solo driving? Would I crash somewhere in the badlands and never be found? Would I start talking to myself after mile 500 of desert driving? Eh, I’m a CreHo, so who cares, let’s go.
I left L.A. at 10 am on Thursday, August 5th (my birthday, and perhaps the strangest Birth Day I’ve ever had). The original plan had been to leave
town after work that day and drive until we got tired, then hotel-karma it and grab a room, finishing the job in the morning. That no longer seemed
like a solid plan since I was driving solo. So I took another day off of work and spent the day driving (and driving, and then driving some more). I reached
Vegas around 2 pm and took a little break at the Sahara. I went to go ride Speed (my favorite Vegas coaster) only to find they had jacked the price up to
$10 for a single ride. I said "feggidaboutit" and dumped that $10 in a slot machine instead. I didn’t win jack, but it kept teasing me and it took a long
time for me to lose it all. Realizing that time was getting away from me, I took off outta there and made my way across Las Vegas, through a heinous
mid-day traffic jam, on my way to the Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix, in order to pick up the final credit I was missing in the city. Did I mention it was about 110 degrees out?
After getting a bit lost, I finally managed to locate the FEC. It was hot stinky sweaty out there, and I now had wasted almost two hours in Vegas,
so I rode quickly and got the hell out of there. It was adequate, for a kiddy coaster. After fighting through more traffic I finally got out of Vegas. Soon afterwards I entered Arizona, and began driving through the Virgin River Gorge, one of my favorite drives anywhere in the world. It’s so cool, you’re in this huge desert, and you come to a wall of mountains with no clear entrance. Suddenly a hole opens up and the next thing you know you are in a deep slot canyon, flying above the river. The stone
quickly changes color, and Utah’s trademark red and yellow rocks predominate by the time you cross into the state. I had never driven further up I-15 than the offramp for Zion National Park, but this time I
was going all the way up to SLC. This proved to be a pretty good drive, with the highlight being a gradual rise up out of a iceberg-carved valley north of Zion. The rest of the drive was pretty boring, and there’s nothing better than a construction-related traffic jam to top off a 10-hour drive! I finally made it to my Holiday Inn in downtown SLC, and enjoyed a frosty
malt beverage while catching the last few minutes the pool was open. So relaxing after being cramped in the hot car all day.
The next morning I was up and out early for a walking tour of downtown SLC, as Lagoon had an 11 am opening. SLC struck me as a small town that somehow became big but still has that smaller town mentality. Not a lot of bars or high rises downtown, and lots of buildings for the Church of Later Day
Saints, AKA the Mormons. They have some lovely grounds and buildings on a city block (or two) called Temple Square, and I spent a tranquil portion of
the morning wandering around there. There were lots and lots of weddings going on, with bridal parties everywhere. The Tabernacle Choir was also
practicing, and they left a side door open so that passers-by could look in and see what was going on. Quite an impressive building, and the pipe organ
was huge and amazing. I followed the sights of the city with a drive up into the hills behind the city. SLC is surrounded on one side by the massive Salt Lake and on the other by the huge and imposing Wasatch
mountain range. I found a nature park with a trail up to Ensign Point, which is the spot where Brigham Young climbed to and declared that "this is
the place" where he would build a city devoted to his faith. The steep, ½ mile long trail led up to an amazing viewpoint offering stunning views of
the lake, the city, and the surrounding mountains. Well worth the effort on this hot morning.
From there I proceed up to Lagoon. The park is about 15 minutes from SLC. The lot was filling up and the gate was swarmed with families pulling huge coolers and toting swimwear. It was shaping up to be a busy day at the park. The park has a nice skyline, with the S & S tower and the extra-large Ferris Wheel at one end dominating, and the wooden Rollercoaster (yep,
that’s it’s official name) running out into the lot. I had no idea how big the park was as I entered, but I did note the nice, shady campground next
door which put thoughts of Knoebels into my mind. Upon entering the park, one sees a short walkway leading up to a perpendicular midway. The midway
stretches to the left and right, with meticulous gardens (very Rye-like) running down the middle and a skyway up above. At the crossroads a neat
series of fountains makes for a water playground that was already heavily in use on this hot day. I liked it already and I hadn’t even ridden anything yet!
I turned to the right, since I wanted to get on Spider quickly, before it got a line. In true GP-fashion, though, I got in line for the first coaster
I came across. Rollercoaster is a 1921 John Miller ride, and it’s midway in transformation from white painted wood to unpainted, treated boards. The
parks patrons have for years called this ride "The White Coaster", and the park had signs up in the queue explaining why it was changing color. I
like it when parks assume people are interested in things like that and take the time to explain what they are doing. The ride itself was a little
underwhelming. It had two or three nice pops of air but lots of shuffle in the corners, and a flat-out boring ending. It’s a good, nostalgic ride with
a nice layout, but it didn’t have much to offer in the ride department, even at night. I’m glad the park has kept it though, and it had a decent line the entire day.
This was also my first taste of Lagoon’s ultra efficient operations; nothing will bring me down faster than seeing a park being poorly run, and I have
to commend Lagoon for running everything PERFECTLY while I was there. Each coaster ran as many trains as possible, each ride was fully staffed, and the ops were friendly and well-trained. The only time they would yell was when someone was holding things up and keeping them from getting the trains
out! The park actually had a few rides that were OVER-staffed (IMO), a pleasant change from my local Six Flags s***hole.
Following Rollercoaster, I went on the park’s Wild Mouse, as it was a quick walk-on. This is the same Maurer Sohne ride as at Dorney and SFKK, but
features a bit less in the brakes department and the park also added a house-type enclosure over the middle drop section that produces some nice
head choppers. Fun stuff.
Now it was time for Spider. This was the most anticipated ride of the trip for me. I love to spin, and I like Mice, plus I really like spinning mice.
Add in the new wrinkle of severe, angled drops that Maurer Sohne has added to this model, and you get one hell of a ride. My first ride was a bit of a
dud, but I had seen cars spin a lot more than mine did so I tried again. My second ride yielded delirous spinning and violent air due to taking a few
rises and turns at odd angles. I was sold and would ride this ride approx. 10 times during the day. It consistently had a 10-20 minute wait and the GP
seemed to be loving it, as was I. The park’s efficiency was demonstrated time and again on this ride, as they managed to run 5 cars with little to
no stacking; every time I would hit the lift, one car would go overhead and one would pass to the side, at the exact same time almost every time. I had
previously had a three-way tie for favorite mouse (Hershey’s, Exterminator, and Vancouver’s Wild Mouse) but this one blew them all away. It was also my favorite coaster of the trip. Good to see that this particular manufacturer’s design is starting to spread; it’s THAT good.
The next coaster was Colossus the Fire Dragon, and this was clearly the surprise of the trip. This might be my favorite Schwartzkopf in the states,
now that Revolution has been disemboweled. Shockwave’s pretty close, and I haven’t ridden either Mindbender yet, but Colossus is disgustingly good.
Great trains (with headlights! OK, they’re after-market 4X4 lights, but they still rock) with lap bars only, a nice view of the mountains from the
lift, a great swooping first drop, two intense loops, numerous head choppers, and a speedy helix finale. The park ran two trains very efficiently on this short track length and the ride never had a wait. They
didn’t stack either, which blew me away. This was my second-favorite ride at the park (and of the trip) and it was conveniently placed right next to Spider so I knew where I would be ending the night.
But first the rest of the park needed exploring. I laughed myself silly watching Cliffhanger (a Mondial Splashover, more on that later) soak it’s
patrons, and took a Rock-O-Plane ride (can’t EVER pass one of these up, and this was a good one; I could do Moosh’s "Hamster On Crack" act quite easily
in this one). I grabbed a quick lunch consisting of a rice bowl with spicy pork, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever had in a park. The meat
left my mouth on fire, which is a good thing IMO. I then took the skyride over to the other side of the park. I identified numerous rides I wanted to
hit later, and noticed there was a lot more to the park behind the midway. I would get back there later, but first it was time to do up the north side
of the park.
Their Ferris Wheel is truly massive, perhaps the biggest one I have ever been on. I think Cedar Point’s might be as big but I don’t recall exactly.
Whatever, this one offered some great views, a long ride, and you could even spin the car! This scared me a bit, as I couldn’t remember which way
was "unscrew", so I left it alone. ;-) The park’s Top Scan (Samurai) was next, and this ride kicked my ass again. There’s only a few flats I can’t
take, and this is one of them. It wasn’t quite as crazy as Long Island Adventureland’s, but it was still very violent and made me nauseous.
Fortunately, the GP loves it and the ride had a long line the entire day. I grabbed a ride on their shot tower at this time and it was very good, with
yet another great view. The last coaster in the park for me followed, and the Jet Star 2 was the only ride enforcing a "no single riders" rule, something I had heard and feared about Lagoon. Colossus had a sign saying no singles allowed as well, but was not enforcing it. I was luckily able to hook up with a party of three and catch a ride. This was my first spiral lift and it surprised me how fast it went up! I wish the RCT ones went this fast. The ride was a lot of fun with some steep drops and violent laterals. And I understood the no single rider rule when we hit the brakes and I flew into my riding partner. D’oh!
I also grabbed the Flyers at this time and I have to say they were disappointing. This is something I've almost come to expect, that nobody but Knoebels (and reportedly PKI) knows how to run their flyers. I'm almost getting to the point where I'm going to start skipping Flyer rides unless they're Knoebels' Flyers. It's just so disappointing to get up to speed and not be able to do anything with the tub. The ride (to me) is just boring without the added mayhem factor of snapping/bouncing.
The heat had become oppressive so I decided to break off from the rides and go to the (included in admission) waterpark. I ran out to the car and
changed into sandals and swim trunks. The water park was packed! There wasn’t a lot to do, but I managed to find a nice pool and soak awhile. From
there I could see a path leading back to their rapids ride, so I made a mental note to head back there while I was dressed for water rides. I then
exited the water park and went back to Cliffhanger. This turned out to be one of the best flat rides I’ve ever ridden. It’s kind of like a Top Spin,
but it’s the water that makes it. The ride is in a nice, Sierra-esque setting, surrounded by pine trees and on top of a rocky "stream". Out of this stream pokes about 20 water jets, that run programs back and forth. They can shoot up anywhere from one foot tall to over 30 feet up, and they are hella fun to watch. I knew from watching the ride I would get drenched,
and I was not disappointed, getting utterly soaked on 4 of my rides, and very wet on the other two. Felt great on a hot azz day. This ride had a
consistent 20 minute wait all day. I still think it should be renamed Bukkake or Facial: The Ride though.
I then wandered to the back of the park. Behind the rides area, the park features a recreation of a frontier village. It was kind of like Knotts’ Ghost Town, but a little more later era. It didn’t have as many shops and
was more tilted towards exhibits. They honestly weren’t that interesting, but it was nonetheless a nice section of the park and very relaxing. The
park’s water rides are also back here. The flume ride is very short and goofy, albeit in a beautiful setting. The park’s first-gen-style rapids ride was a hoot! Lots of coin-operated water jets, and some great
waterfalls and other neat treats. Got freshly soaked and enjoyed it a lot. Then spent ½ an hour getting other people wet; I could do that all day.
After running out to the car to change back into normal clothes, I went back to Frontier Village for dinner. The Park had a nice BBQ stand and I
had some outstanding pork ribs. The park had some great food, and good dessert choices as well. I wandered back to the Samurai side and found
dozens of picnic groves, filled with lawns, benches, and tons of shady spots. Now I know where all those coolers went. There were families everywhere enjoying picnic dinners and it was a nice aspect to the park. I was being reminded more and more of Knoebels by the minute, and that’s the
impression that has stuck with me. A nice, relaxing place, lots of families there, some great coasters (although steel instead of wood here), and just
about every flat ride you can imagine, all in a sprawling layout with surprises around every corner. Hell, there’s even a beautiful stream running right through the center of the park! It’s a western USA Knoebels, I tell ya!
I finished the night by power-riding Colossus and Spider. I was in the park from 11 am to 11 pm, and I could have easily gone for another 6 hours
there. What an unexpectedly great park! I’m trying to find room in my Top 10 for it, not sure what I would kick out though. It’s THAT good. I made my
way to my SLC airport-area La Quinta and set the alarm for 7 am, as I had a long drive to Denver on deck for the next morning.
The next morning dawned reallly early as I made my way across SLC and then up Parley's Canyon.
This was particularly beautiful and was made even more so by a number of hot air balloons taking to the air above Park City. At one point they were spread all across the horizon and backlit by the rising sun...one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The drive across Wyoming was unfortunately pretty damn boring. Despite some scenic moments in Green River and Medicine Bow National Forest, there's basically a whole lot of nothing in southern Wyoming. I know the state can be beautiful, and can't wait to see Yellowstone next year.
I made my way down through Cheyenne and eventually into Denver. The Rockies loomed off to one side and I was already anticipating getting a very up-close view of them on my drive home. I unfortunately ran into some heavy traffic on I-25 in Denver, but eventually made my way to Lakeside Amusement Park and hooked up with Mike Kallay at around 3 pm. It was nice to have someone to talk to and enjoy the remaining parks on the trip with, and Mike is always a laugh and a half to hang out with.
Lakeside was the most anticipated park of the trip for me. Such notables as Mark McKenzie and Moosh have raved about it in the past, and I was looking forward to enjoying the Art Deco architecture and riding the Cyclone. As Mark noted in his TR, the park is not much to look at in the daylight, but it comes out of it's shell as the sun goes down and it is indeed just about the prettiest nighttime park I've ever been to. Disneyland, DCA, and IOA come close, but Lakeside competes very well on a fraction of the budget.
I can't remember the exact order we did things in, so I'll do a ride by ride rundown. The Flyers were even more of a disappointment than Lagoon's. In addition to not having any power and no snappage, the ride powered down very quickly, and then took FOREVER to stop. It was SO annoying. The only thing worse than a bad Flyer ride is an endless bad Flyer ride. The park's Whip was actually pretty good, and was housed in a nice structure; most of the ride is outside but the center is covered by a cool building. We got a nice long cycle and some cool Whip action. The Roll-O-Plane is right next door and Mike and I decided to ride each end of the arm, solo. This turned out to be a bad call, as the ride proceeded to beat the crap out of us. This one still does the vertical to horizontal transition, and I knew we were in trouble when the ride started up practically in full power mode already. This ride wrecked both of us for flat rides for most of the evening...nothing like being thrown all the way across a bench seat into a metal frame with no padding, repeatedly. Ouch! The park's Mission To Mars dark ride is very unique, I've never ridden anything like it. It starts with an honest-to-goodness chain lift, meanders around the second story a bit, then takes an uncontrolled, un-powered drop and rise. It then takes a DOWNHILL chain lift before ending up like a traditional dark ride, with a couple of really good scares. Coaster or not? Discuss. Also, this ride isn't listed on DAFE.ORG. Wonder why not?
The train ride is truly cool, taking a long route around the park's lake. Our first ride was kind of disconcerting, as the young operator was running the train full out and it felt like we were going to derail into the lake! Our second ride the next night was much more tranquil, and featured a BEAUTIFUL view of the park from across the lake. The Rock-O-Plane gave a nice ride, and produced one of the funniest moments of the trip, as I lost about 20 coins out of my pocket on my first flip. They proceeded to fly all around me in the cabin, creating a veritable rainshower of coins. They then fell out of the bottom of my vehicle a few at a time, and many of them landed on Mike's car right below me. I belive he caught this on film, can't wait to see that. Lastly on the flat ride round-up, the Satellite was beautiful to watch, but not so much fun to ride. It went on way too long, had some strong laterals, and poor Mike got a dud rocket that couldn't get it up.
As for the coasters...my favorite coaster at the park was easily...Wild Chipmunk! I know I'm supposed to like the Cyclone; It's a Vettel, it's an ACE Coaster Classic, millions of enthusiasts the world over revere it and call it on Mother's Day. I don't know what's wrong with me, but it just didn't do anything for me. Sure, it had a nice pop of air coming out of the first drop, and a nice lateral slam on that first turn. But the back seat? Nothing. The "airtime hill"? Nothing. The run home, which looks so good? Nothing. I suppose being tilted to the left has it's charms, but it gets real old when that's about the only trick up your sleeve. Other than the really hilarious and utterly apathetic ride ops on this thing (insert shout-outs to "Get Me Fired!" and "Reverse Bowl Cut" here) there just wasn't much of a reason to ride this more than a few times. It was dishing out a little more Sunday night, but still nowhere near Top 20 quality. OK, the station is WAY cool at night, I'll give you that one.
The Wild Chipmunk, on the other hand, was well worth experiencing again and again. With no wait, we rode this around 10 times in the two days spent at Lakeside. Just utterly brutal. Very similar to Amarillo's Miler Mouse, but with better padding, so it was actually enjoyable instead of painful. Even with all the padding, it required lots of bracing on the part of the rider. I cracked up when Mike experienced the same GANK on the back of his head coming off the lift that Tony Milano and I suffered on the Amarillo coaster. ;-) This thing is just so insane, with some great airtime and laterals. The real mousie-deal, and would be in the running for my favorite had Spider not already taken that prize the day before.
Saved my favorite Lakeside ride for last. Let's give it up for the ghetto Go Kart ride! Tucked down by the lake, this unassuming oval featured 3 or 4 very beat up cars, a number of goofy operators, and seemed to bring out the "teen punk" in the heart of most every Lakeside patron. Sure, some people just raced calmly, with no impacts and without running anyone into a wall. Then there was Mike and I, and we found no shortage of other guests who were ready to throw down and start bangin'. Our California driving skillz came in handy big time...nothing feels better than sending some hot **** 13-year old right into the wall and then doing a victory squeal to celebrate. These cars were able to take a lot of punishment, and the track was built to bounce you right back into the action should you "accidentally" slam into a wall or four. Not that we ever did that on purpose, LOL! My favorite gag involved scaring the crap out of the people waiting in line to ride, by either faking a full crash into the wall right in front of them, or alternatively pretending not to see where I was going and slamming into the wall, making them jump back. Good times! Mike caught some great footage which will hopefully make it into "Road to Nowhere 3". Appropriate...sadly appropriate. ;-) This was also the ride where we met the Lakeside Kid, a cheerfully foul-mouthed little pre-teen who took great pride in saying anything Mike suggested he say out loud. The little bastard was nice and mean on the track too, putting me into the wall at one point. We almost kidnapped him and took him back to California; I think Chris Murray would've adopted him on the spot after he got a load of the Kid's "F-bomb per minute" ratio, which was about up there with Chris'.
So, in closing about Lakeside...Beautiful park, quirky operators, nice ride collection, but ultimately a bit of anticipointment. The lack of merchandise and the pretty crappy quality of the food offerings did not help either. Hopefully the "Super Nachos" and the legendary, fear-inspiring "Cheese Teat" will make it into RTN3 as well. Lakeside is a fun park, but not something I would go out of my way to visit again.
Mike and I made it back to our room and proceeded to drink ourselves silly while watching TV and eating pizza. Damn, they have good beer available in Denver! Mike lived in the city for a few years and is a beer expert, so he helped me make some good choices over the course of the weekend. Luckily, our boozing did not keep us from making it to SFEG the next morning for the ACE ERT.
The park is, as previously noted, located in a really stupid (albeit photogenic) location. The Platte River runs down the far side of the park, and the train tracks along the front really impart that "hobo" vibe. The park does have nice views of the Rockies and downtown though. Our Six Flags experience began with the genuises working parking. They had no idea what "A-Seers" were or why we should get free parking (other than the $20 we shelled out for the event, LOL!) despite the fact that 20 or 30 A-Seers had already arrived and we were the last ones there. The main teenager out at the gate finally made a call on his personal cell phone and got the all clear to let us in. It's Party Time! (cue Venga Boys)
We joined the milling ACE throng at the front gate and Barry Maness introduced himself to us. Barry, Kevin Knapp and the park did a bang-up job on the event (other than the parking snafu) and it was a pleasure to meet them. Soon after arrival we were allowed in to the park. SFEG has a truly wierd entry, which leads you indoors to the metal detectors. I don't think anyone was expecting to be scanned and it was hilarious to watch every one try to fish out all their metal with little advance notice. With that hurdle finally cleared, we stepped into the park.
Honestly, my expectations of the place were pretty low, given the park's bad location and a collection of coasters that reads like a Hall of Pain. I was expecting a dump but was surprised to see a well-kept park with an inviting entrance. The walkway through the gift shops was clean and well-decorated, and the "Welcome To Six Flags" flower display at the base of the Ferris Wheel was very nicely done. As we wandered to the back of the park, I noticed the park passed the Magic Mountain test (more than 3 flat rides). Everything seemed to be nicely painted, and while there was a lack of shade, there was lots of greenery.
Finally, we came to Half-Pipe. This was probably the most-anticipated ride of the trip for me, along with Spider and Lakeside's Cyclone. The combination of launched Intamin goodness and spinning mayhem seemed like it would be my cup of tea. The ride looks like a bigger version of the Disk-O, kinda. After taking a group photo, Mike and I managed to be the first ones on the loading platform. Disaster struck, though, as I simply could not get the restraint down far enough to close the seatbelt! WTF!! I've lost weight, and now I can't fit in this ride I've been looking forward to for two months? ARGH! The ride op didn't really try hard enough to get me in, IMO, but I can't fault them for not wanting to break a guest's ribs. I exited the ride, but was already making plans to have Mike break a few of my ribs/internal organs later on in the ERT to fit my fat ass on there.
Note to Intamin: Americans are fat. That is all.
My bad luck seemed to curse the ride, as it wasn't able to complete a cycle without breaking down. Mike got three half-assed rides that didn't get finished before the restraints were popped and maintenance was called. It looked like it would be awhile, so we went over to Twister 2. This is actually a good looking ride, fairly large and mostly well-painted. As for the ride itself? Wooden Freeway to Nowhere, number 34. Booooring. The speed bump on rise #2 and the tunnel were nice, the rest? Um, crap. Sorry to diss the ride, but it does nothing. OK, it's still better than SFMM's wood, but not by much. This was a pretty disappointing trip for wood.
After taking 2 or 3 rides I split off from Mike to take pictures and check on Half-Pipe. It finally re-opened with 10 minutes left in the ERT and Mike made it back over just in time to help me out. He was able to get me locked in no sweat, but then the op needed to get an inch pulled on the seatbelt. OK, now I'm uncomfortable as hell...launch this thing. The GP began pouring in as we started to rotate. The ride LEAPS into motion quickly, and is soon reaching the top of the tower, within 2 or 3 trips. We got two rides thanks to the nice Op, and they were wildly inconsistent. The first had not much spin at all but was still fun due to the vertical situations the ride places you in. The second ride had much more spinning and was O.O.C. It made me like the ride a lot more, despite the pain in my shoulders and my nads, which were pretty much crushed by the seat. So, skinny people should love this ride, providing you RUN to it when the park opens. Each wheel seats 7 (WTF?) so the ride accomodates 14 peeps at a time with 4-5 minute dispatches. You do the math, cause I'm too horrified to go there. Again, thank god for ERT.
With the park now open, and with a big crowd expected due to it being the weekend, Mike and I knew we had to work the rides hard if we didn't want to get stuck in huge lines. Lunch was at 11:30, and we were able to bang out Tower of Doom (great Intamin drop ride, nice Rockies view), Mind Eraser (typical SLC), Boomerang (typical 'Rang), some shopping, and Sidewinder (Arrow Shuttle Looper, hella fun!) before breaking for lunch. Despite a short line, we decided to leave Waffle Iron: The Ride for later.
Lunch was good (fried chicken) and we were pleased to get some exit passes to make up for the problems during ERT that morning. The park Rep. present at the lunch was really nice and appears to like ACErs. We also got to hear the story of the guy who lost the 12,000 year old coin on Twister 2. I'm glad it was found, but why the hell would you bring something like that to a park?? I hate bringing my $300 camera there! Fortunately the incident did make for some comedy later, as random quarters in my pocket magically became "12,000 year old" quarters.
Following lunch we did some more shopping, enjoyed a tasty microbrew inside the park (Denver rocks for beer!) and rode the Ferris Wheel, getting some nice footage of the park and downtown Denver. Finally, the moment had come we were both dreading. We made our way to Wife Beater: The Ride. The "donut mixer" lift hill is pretty cool, but also very funny. We were imagining all the park's donuts or batter running under the coaster and being beaten by the blender action of the lift. We shot some video of it and hung out by the exit ramp, enjoying the reactions of patrons: "Ow, that hurt!", "That was lousy", "I hurt my neck", etc. I also enjoyed getting a good look at some of the track bends...looks like they were "designed" by dropping steel rail off of a 20-story building and then designing around what it ended up looking like. We were both in hysterics looking at the horribly undignified riding position and the way you need to "mount" the moving ride vehicle to get on board.
Alas, we could put if off no longer...we gave up out exit passes and jumped on. I knew it was going to be trouble when I settled my face and neck into the "comfortable" padding. When the steel cage slammed shut on my ass I knew it was Judgement Day...It was like being locked in a steel cage with Hulk Hogan right after someone told him you just killed his puppy. The lift was kind of cool, but I couldn't enjoy it because I was saying "S***" and F***" all the way up it, in genuine fear of what was about to happen to me. The first part, up to the first block brake was actually not bad. If they ever made one of these and forgot about inversions and turns, it might not be bad. Things went downhill real fast after that, unfortunately. Those curves and flips were not meant to be taken that fast, in that position, and in that restraint. Ow, ow ow.
We enjoyed a few laughs about our ride and then decided to get the hell out of Elitch 2: Electric Boogaloo. The park wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, so that's saying something I guess. It sure has more flats than my crappy park, and it looks nice. Yeah, it's a Togo Standup short of having the worst coaster collection ever, but Half-Pipe is fun and Sidewinder ain't bad. I want to get back to Colorado, but unfortunately not for the parks. ;-(
CreHo madness lurked next, as we drove up to Henderson and the Mile High Flea Market. This was a tacky spectacle...there appears to be quite a demand for budget lingerie, cheap spanish guitars, and dubious fruit in the greater Denver metro area. While walking into the place, I noticed trash swirling around and before we knew it a mini-funnel kicked up, right in the middle of a hot summer day. It lifted up a tent right in front of us, and I noted with horror that there was a heavy steel tank tied to the tent! Disaster was averted and the tent was brought back down to earth, fortunately. The Flea Market also featured some of the tackiest apparel I've ever seen, with Jesus and weed competing for the most designs. The coaster was a Wisdom kiddie and was dispatched for $1, about the most bang for my CreHo buck I've ever enjoyed. The Market was hot as hell and kind of ghetto so we quickly abandoned ship in favor of our hotel's pool.
2 hours of calm, cool soaking later, we headed back downtown for an early dinner at Breckenridge Brewery. Based on Mike's recommendation I had the Bison burger, which did not disappoint. A Rockies game had just gotten out, so we got a bit of local color as well. Good food, in a nice place...Downtown Denver rocks! On the way back to Lakeside for a second evening of fun, Mike drove me through the old Elitch's site. All that's left is a decrepit old theater building, and the old carousel housing, which now frames a rental office for the condos that "litter" the site. I was surprised to see that old Elitch's was within walking distance of Lakeside. It would have been cool to live in the neighborhood and have the two to choose between back in the day.
Our final park visit of the trip was a lot of fun. We hit all the rides we wanted to do over, took lots of nighttime photos, and finished the night with 5 or 6 consecutive runs on the ghetto Go Karts. The ride op this night was hilarious and played along with us, even allowing us to help park the cars and shut the ride down for the night. We slowly made our way out to the lot...Mike had another day of goofing around in the Rockies to look forward to, and I had the most challenging day of driving in my life ahead of me.
I awoke at 5 am (4 am California time) and was in my car by 5:10. Grabbing gas and coffee, I hit I-70 and pointed the Mustang west. The sun had just begun to come up as the road began climbing out of Denver. The drive was like a roller coaster, as it rose dramatically upwards and dove downwards repeatedly...always tending towards the upwards. The scenery got more and more incredible with each mile. As the sun rose, it struck upon gleaming stone monoliths, covered with beautiful trees. Snowy patches appeared on the ground as the road rose above the tree line. Here I was in the middle of August and I'm freezing my ass off in shorts, LOL! I finally broke down and ran the heater, mindful of the ironic fact that I would soon be cruising through 110 degree desert and this would all seem like a dream. Reaching the Eisenhower Tunnel and seeing that 11,000 foot elevation sign was especially cool for me...I may have been that high before but never while driving. ;-) Bombing through Vail, Eagle, and especially Glenwood Canyon yielded specatular sight after spectacular sight, just unreeling all around me like the world's greatest nature film. I even enjoyed the long slow meander of the Colorado River down to Grand Junction.
After getting side-tracked on the world's longest business loop in Grand Junction, I ventured out into the Utah badlands. When I first heard them called that, I was wondering if maybe they were just the "Misunderstood Lands" or maybe even the "Misdiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder Lands". No, these were truly bad lands. The deserts of California, Arizona and Nevada can be foreboding, but the one in Utah looks like it actively wants to hurt you, if you'll just drive a leeetle closer to the shoulder of the road. I was glad to put them behind me. The drive perked up quite a bit with trips through Capital Reef National Park (Spectacular!) and the Fishlake Wilderness Area (pretty). I then hit I-15, and it was the same boring desert drive I know too well. I welcomed back the presence of my fellow Californian drivers once I passed Vegas. Nothing says "you're almost home" like speeding idiots in SUVs running you off the road with dangerous lane changes while talking on their cell phones (or watching their mobile DVD players). Ah California, LOVE IT! I made it home at 8 pm, resulting in a 16-hour drive (take out about an hour for lunch and dinner breaks for the real, no-stop driving time). And with that, I think I'm ready to get on a plane again for my next coaster trip, he he he!
Special thanks to Mike Kallay, for showing me around Denver, and to Elitch's and and the local ACE Reps for putting on a great event. Can't wait to get back to the state for Rocky Mountain National Park, Pike's Peak, and Royal Gorge. *** Edited 8/11/2004 4:10:29 PM UTC by bassististist***
Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell
SLC struck me as a small town that somehow became big but still has that smaller town mentality. Not a lot of bars or high rises downtown, and lots of buildings for the Church of Later Day Saints, AKA the Mormons.
Well, there's the reason that there's not a lot of bars, Mormons. I too was surprised at the lack of bars in the city. Did you have to get a drinking membership or sponsor or whatnot. I remember when I was there they wanted to charge me for the right to drink (crazy SLC) but I could avoid it by getting someone in there to "sponsor me". The bar regular signed some little thing and then I didn't have to bother with it the rest of my trip there.
I wish I had known that there was a good park there. I so would have hit it, screw the conference, give me coasters.
Add in the new wrinkle of severe, angled drops that Maurer Sohne has added to this model, and you get one hell of a ride.
This mouse looks awesome. I usually am not too big of a fan of mice (except the one at Blackpool....12 rides in one day), most are just sorta ho-hum. The addition of spinning kicked up my interest in them quite a bit, but spinning and a layout like this looks insane. I definitely need to find one of these. When are we going to get one here in Cali??
Sounds like a great trip. I almost made the drive to Denver on the 5th as well, but my plans were to drive there for Drum Corps International Championships at Invesco. I decided just to hit up the Tour of Champions in Pasadena (tonight) instead. *** Edited 8/11/2004 3:52:24 PM UTC by Blaster_1578***
Oh man. If anything, this trip report has doubled my interest in taking a road trip across the West - and I don't care if I ride any roller coasters. Did you take any photos while you were driving?
Yeah, I actually took a buttload of photos while driving (Mike Kallay calls it "drive-by photography). I didn't necessarily have time to stop and get a proper shot, but I took a lot of photos of the Virgin River Gorge, the Rockies, and Capital Reef. I would love to have had more time to pull over at all the different scenic viewpoints along I-70, but I wanted to get my drives done before I got too tired.
Bass TRs, they're THAT good...:)
Spider has held my interest since the day it opened, and you KNOW how jealous I am that you got an Arrow shuttle loop before me....mine comes next Saturday at Fun Spot, provided...
For those of you unaware, when Bass and I are together, it's somewhere between two giggling schoolgirls and a Jay and Silent Bob movie gone horribly awry...better see ya at PPP you freak!
I am glad you hit up all the smaller parks we have in the Rocky Mountain Region. It was funny to read about your Halfpipe experience, as I have had a similar one. I was able to ride at an employee party where supervisors were running the ride, but when I went to ride it on a normal day with friends, the operators said that I was too big. I told them they couldn't break me and they pushed a little harder and it worked. I still haven't found why they put the crotch pads on the restraints, as they hurt both men and women. Too bad you didn't get to ride Disaster Canyon, as it is much better than Rattlesnake Rapids at Lagoon. Much better rapids and a smoother ride overall. I didn't like the element of the ride at Lagoon where you are bounced back and forth next to the waterfall. It really hurt my neck. I was very happy you were able to ride Sidewinder, as the cable snapped on it back in July and they had electrical troubles a couple days before you were there. It is a great Arrow Shuttle and should be there for a while as it is pretty popular. It is my favorite ride to operate and one of my fav's to ride as well. I totally agree with you on what you said about the Flying Piece-O-Crap. I despise that ride and not many people in the park disagree with me. The fact is that many people still come to the park to ride is because it has a novelty factor, and it is popular amoung the kids (despite the 50" height requirement).
I was disappointed you didn't like Cyclone as much as Wild Chipmunk, as it is far superior, even for being built in 1940. I also did not approve of the Hurrican (Flyers) there, as there wasn't enough speed to get the cable to snap and it took forever to stop the ride. It is still a great little park though and I hope they do something to better it as the years roll by.
Lagoon deserves every bit of praise you gave it, as it is a wonderful park located in a great spot. The Spider is truly a classic ride, as is the Samuri and Cliffhanger. Cliffhanger was closed when I was there last year, but looked stupendous. I was disappointed to hear you couldn't get the flyers to snap, as my friend Steve "Mustang" and I had no problem. At least they came to an end before they shut down the power at the end of the night, unlike the ones at Lakeside. I wonder if you got to ride the S&S Towers there, as they were my first and a spectacular ride. The log flume is a classic as well, but not as cool as the one at the old Elitch's (Splinter). I loved the atmosphere when I was there, and I wish SFEG would take a closer look at it and try to make some changes that would attract more families and create a better atmosphere. Lagoon greatly resembles the original Elitch Gardens with the family atmosphere and small thrills, but has succeeded in staying current with rides and the attractions. Great to hear they are good enough to be in your top ten as I would put them there as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed your TR and look forward to reading more of them.
I'm glad you had a good time at Lagoon. That was my home park for many years, although the last time I was there was right after they put in Rattlesnake Rapids. So I haven't ridden Spider or the other new wild mouse they have, but I've always had a good time. I used to love going on their two dark rides and I could ride Colossus the Fire Dragon all day. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for the memories.
Boblo: No word yet on further trips. Nothing else this year, that's for sure...I drained my bank account and my vacation days with this one. Gotta put a little back in before I go off again. I want to get to 400 next year but I don't see how I can get 82 coasters without leaving the U.S. I'm betting #400 will be at Blackpool in 2006. ;-)
Everyone else, thanks for the nice comments! These take a bit of work to type and it's so nice to know that people enjoy them. I do enjoy writing them, almost as much as I enjoy taking the trips in the first place!
I am glad to see you doing more trip reports. I enjoyed this one as I did the last.
On the topic of the Zamperla flying coaster at SFEG, I didn't like it as much as you did. =:^)
I rode two other versions of that ride last week and have no desire to ride any other version.
The Flyers at Lakeside are strange. You have to operate them the exact opposite way you would operate a set of normal flyers. This means you have to turn the sail to head down the very second you start to head up. Even when you do that it's almost impossible to get in a small snap, but it is very possible to take out some branches.
Sounds like you had a amazing time.
"Drive by photography"........Classic!
Try Pbase my friend, I got the Gator hooked on it.
*** Edited 8/17/2004 11:57:13 PM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***
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