Sunday, May 2nd (Cliffs and Sandia Peak)
Today was the last day I would be enjoying parks on this trip. I went to Cliff’s last year and knew what to expect in regards to what the park had to offer so I was looking forward to getting back.
Kevin Manwarren and I drove from Amarillo to Albuquerque the night before so we didn’t have to do the drive in the morning. This worked out well for us as we got more than enough sleep and were ready to start riding as soon as the event started. We didn’t need to be at the park until 11:30AM. This was kind of a late start for an event but we weren’t complaining. By the time we got to the park, the weather was warm (finally) and the coasters were running.
The park had some Tex-Mex snacks for us to eat during this time. We also met up with some of our friends during this time. I was waiting for Mike Graham and the rest of The Gravity Group guys to show up as we had been playing phone tag that morning. Once, Mike, Cory, Chad, and Larry showed up, I talked with them a bit before moving on to go ride. Since the park was allowing us to shoot POV during ERT, Mike and I had planned on riding in the front together so we could both shoot POV. Sometimes when we do this, we compare each others videos and then Mike edits the best parts of both together for use in promotion. However, Mike had some stuff he needed to do before he got to riding so I headed over to the first coaster of the day with Brian Peters.
This is a standard Galaxi just like the one we rode a couple of days later at Joyland. As with the Joyland version, this one ran very well with its good pacing through the drops and helices. There were only about 4 or us riding this coaster. That mean everyone else was in line waiting for a ride on the larger coaster in the park.
----The New Mexico Rattler----
Since this was CCI’s last coaster, it means something to those that really loved CCI’s designs. The entire Gravity Group was at the event today to talk during the picnic about what went into designing this coaster. I really enjoyed the couple of rides I got on the coaster last August. I couldn’t wait to ride again.
Since I wanted to shoot POV, I decided to wait for the front. It looked as if I wasn’t the only person who had this in mind as the line for the front was very long. With one train operation, I knew this was going to be a long wait. Add that to the fact that the crew, while very enthusiastic and quite speedy, do load the coaster in a similar fashion to BGT’s Gwazi, where they first check the belts, then lock the lap bars, then check them. No one was complaining though as the crew was very friendly and asked very politely for us to push our lap bars down as far as they would go before they checked them. I didn’t see a single individual complain about the bar being pushed down the way the crew asked about. That’s the way it should be IMO.
Our wait for the front was just under an hour. While in line, we got to talk with many other people about the Six Flags New England accident. We were still confused as to what exactly happened. On a more positive note, it seemed like everyone was enjoying their rides on the coaster. Some claimed it was running the best it ever has. Kevin and I were just about to find out how this thing was running.
We hopped into the front and began to start shooting footage. Within moments we made the short right hand turn out of the station and directly onto the lift. There was a flag flying half staff at the top of the lift. Gary Hays, the parks GM is very supportive of our troops over in Iraq and wanted to show his support so the flag was lowered half mast.
The view from on top of the lift is spectacular with the mountains in the background. The curving first drop leads into a covered shed before bouncing up into a quick turn around. We then dove down into another shed, which we later found out was made due to kids throwing rocks at the train from across the street. A left hand curve follows and a rise up and over a very nice hill which provides a lot of airtime.
A hill or two more puts us into a right curve and drop into a nice underground tunnel. While in the tunnel, the smell of new wood is still apparent. So far, our ride was kicking butt. You could tell they were taking great care of this ride.
The rest of the ride consisted of us rising up out of the tunnel into a right curve and dropping down what I call the “fake out drop” as it looks as if it’s going to be a steep drop but is more of a gradual decline to set you up for the wicked ending. Once you curve again to the right, you drop down and over another small hill which provides some nice air, then down into the tight left hand helix before making your way up and over to the brakes.
What can I say?
This is a classic CCI masterpiece IMO. It’s still smooth and offers many types of forces. It’s a lot longer than what it looks like as you pull up to the park. With about 15 minutes left for our ERT, Kevin and I decided to ride the second to back seat. This time, I had Kevin do a play-by-play. The back seat offers more airtime on the first half of the ride but less laterals if I remember correctly.
We had just timed our ride perfectly because we got the last ERT ride. The crew kindly asked us to put our cameras away if we wanted to continue riding. The GP started to show up and it looked like everyone was running to the Rattler. By this time, our picnic was starting to we walked over to where we walked into the park and got a bite to eat.
Kevin and I sat with Matt Crowther and Betsy Abrams. We have been friends since about 1997 and I am always interested in hearing their stories about storm chasing. They both work for the Weather Channel and go storm chasing every spring. I would love to go chasing sometime. I love severe weather and getting up and close with a tornado would be incredible. I know others that think people are crazy for chasing, but I think it would be quite amazing. After talking with them a few more minutes about this, they asked if I would like to go out with them one of these days for chasing. Perhaps in a couple of years. I would love to do that. While I can’t be guaranteed to see a tornado, just being around severe weather in general would be enough to get me to go on a trip like that.
During the picnic, several speakers spoke about the many aspects of what went into getting the Rattler to open. Gary Hays spoke on being in a difficult place when CCI announced they were closing, to the park’s PR guy, John Robinson telling us some humorous stories regarding the PR of the ride and the ever changing opening dates. The Gravity Group’s Larry Bill spoke in great detail about designing the ride and showed off some preliminary layouts and plans.
After our picnic, the Spring Con officially came to an end. We still could spend the rest of the day in the park if we wanted to. A lot of people went to various rides. Greg Legowski took us out to the parking lot where we met up with Dana Schwartz. Dana had wanted me to copy my ECO footage for her for the last two years. She handed me a box of black DVD+R discs and I got to say hello to her husband on the phone.
Greg, Kevin and I then went back into the park and took a few moments to shoot some more footage of the Rattler. It was weird seeing the towers for the sky ride still standing as the ride no longer operates in the park We also met back up with Mike, Cory, and Chad who were interested in joining us in the disco bumper cars. These bumper cars are enclosed while all kinds of lights flash and disco music is played. The line was about 15 minutes long due to a fairly long ride cycle.
The ride itself was very surreal. It was fun bouncing into everyone while all the lights zoomed past everything. The song “Funkytown’ blared from the speakers as we continued our ride. After our ride, Chad had to meet up with Larry as they had a plane to catch. Kevin and I started to think about what we wanted to do. We had discussed going up to Sandia Peak and wanted to find out if anyone else would be interested Greg really wanted to go but he couldn’t find Dana so he passed.
We found out that quite a few others were going so we all decided to leave Cliff’s after saying our goodbyes to the wonderful staff, and headed out to Sandia Peak. The weather was fantastic by this time. It was in the low 80’s. Kevin and I didn’t even bring our jackets with us. We left them in the hotel.
We arrived at the tramway for Sandia Peak about 10 minutes after leaving Cliff’s. I was anxious to ride the tram as it’s reportedly the longest tramway in the world and has the longest unsupported section in the world. As soon as we bought our tickets, we met up with some other people who were at the event. It was cool seeing the large wheels that pull the cables. It reminded me a lot of Millennium Force’s cable lift system. Our tram soon arrived and we hopped in. We soon began our ride to the top of Sandia Peak. We were told that the temperature was 30 degrees cooler at the top of the peak. Kevin and I didn’t bring our jackets so we may be really cold up there.
With only two support towers the entire journey, I could see this being a pretty scary ride for some people. Our start was pretty slow but as we approached the first tower, we were told that we may feel some swinging as soon as we left that tower. Sure enough, there was some swinging, but it was so gradual that I don’t think no one really minded.
As soon as we passed through the second tower, the longest unsupported span was right in front of us. We were over 1,000 feet from the bottom of the canyon floor. The unsupported span met we would sag quite a bit. We passed the second tram before reaching the bottom of the sag. We could barely see our tram's shadow on the ground. Before we knew it, we were being pulled up towards the top of the peak where we would be exiting the tram.
We could clearly see signs of it being cold as there were patches of snow sitting around. A crisp windy breeze welcomed us as we exited the tram. It was about 50 degrees up here, but it wasn’t all that cold. It was just windy. Everyone pretty much just did their own thing when up there. I walked over to one of many observation decks and watched the tram we were just riding in, head back to the other station. While it was muggy down below in Albuquerque, we got a good view of the entire area.
On the other side of the mountain was a ski area. A smaller chairlift could take skiers up but it wasn’t working this day. Not enough snow, but enough for Kevin to start throwing snowballs up at me from where he was standing. On certain areas of the observation area, small pipes are mounted on a display of sorts where people con look through and see certain highlights of the surrounding area. You can see Santa Fe through one of them. It was hard to see, but it was there. We also noticed some strange looking birds flying around. Someone later told us it was hang gliders. There were many of them.
The views from both sides were incredible. I loved every second of being up here. Usually I don’t get to do much sight seeing on coaster trips but I was really glad I stayed the extra day so I could do some non-park stuff for once. Most of the group we went up with decided to eat at the restaurant that looks over the canyon. Kevin and I decided to head back with Jeff Mast and his wife and friend. The ride down was just as spectacular. We got an even better view of the hang gliders flying overhead.
Once we were back down, Kevin and I were walking back to is truck when we saw this “hidden” shadow made by a table and two chairs. Kevin and I headed back to the hotel for a few minutes before deciding to go into downtown Albuquerque to get something to eat. Kevin had been down there before and said it was pretty cool. Once downtown, we drove up and down the street looking for someplace to eat. We decided to eat at the N.Y.P.D (New York Pizza Department). We got a table outside and just watched the many people who were cruising back and forth in their flashy cars with loud audio systems. The food was great and filled me up in no time.
We went back to the hotel and watched Viva La Bam and a new episode of Punk’d before falling to sleep. I had a 9:00am flight the next morning. Since we were only 10 minutes from the airport, I didn’t need to wake up extremely early.
The next morning Kevin took me back to the airport. On the way, we could see several hot air balloons taking off in the distance. There must have been some sort of balloon festival going on. I got to the airport and headed for the metal detectors after checking in.
There were two lines for the metal detectors that merged into one single line. At the merge point, I bumped into someone from the other line. I looked to see who it was and was very surprised to see friends Dana Schwartz and Joe Kraph. I never run into people I know at the airport. It just never happens to me. Out of all the times I have flown in the last 10 years, you would think I would run into at least one person, but that wasn’t the case until this morning. Dana, Joe and I talked briefly before heading into opposite directions.
I made my way to my gate and just sat down. I was pretty early and could have easily gone and found something to eat but I wasn’t all that hungry. I looked up at the flight info at the gate I was at and it read “Columbus – 9:00am.” Something didn’t sit right with me though. It took about 5 hours total to fly into Albuquerque with a layover in Houston. According to my ticket, my flight was non-stop from Albuquerque to Columbus. I wasn’t to land until 5:00pm. You do the math. Why was it going to take so long considering it usually takes an hour less to fly east due to the tail winds and jet stream.
Just as I was trying to figure this out, I look up and see fellow enthusiasts Jason Knutson arriving at my gate. I knew Jason lived in the Houston area. What the heck? Was I at the wrong gate? Nope. I looked up again and saw that the display now read,”Houston – Columbus – 9:00am”. So much for non-stop although I didn’t have to switch planes this time.
I went over to Jason and sat down and just chatted with him until we boarded the flight. As it turns out, not only did we have the same flight, but his seat was exactly one row in front of mine. I don’t see a single person I know on my history of flying by myself, and I end up seeing three friends in one half hour. Pretty strange huh?
Jason and I didn’t talk much on the flight as we were both pretty tired and I slept for most of the way to Houston. I had an hour and half layover in Houston and decided to go find something to eat. The airport we were at was massive. Jason had to catch another flight so I walked with him so he could show me where all the food places were on the way. It was a long walk, but I found something to eat before heading back to my gate and getting back on the plane.
The flight back to Columbus was quite boring. I decided to listen to some music. For some reason, my MP3 player wouldn’t boot up. It has happened before but I followed the instructions on how to get it running if it doesn’t turn on right away, and even that didn’t work. I messed around with it for about a half hour before it finally came on. By this time, I was very eager to start listening to something so I decided to listen to the new Soulfly and Lostphrophets discs, but as soon as I put my headphones on, the left headphone decided to snap off the bracket that was holding it on. This meant I would have no music to listen to. I could have purchased one of the airlines headphones but the quality in those is not great IMO. The ones that I had cancelled out all the noise around me. I have had those things for a few years now. They were the ones that I used on the Europe tour. They have lasted me quite a while and now they were broke (sniff). Oh well, I went out the next day and bought some better ones so everything is cool.
Well, I guess that wraps up my views of the Spring Con trip. I had a great time and it would take forever to list everyone that helped make it a great time, but I do have to thank Kevin for driving down from Denver to pick me up in Albuquerque and carting my @$$ around the area. We had a great time and I can’t wait for our next trip in just a few more weeks. Just you wait Kevin! Dragster is calling your name.
Thanks for reading,
-Sean *** Edited 5/17/2004 1:53:52 AM UTC by Sean Flaharty***
Thanks! I didn't even consider riding Pipeline Plunge as it was really cold out, and I don't even remeber seeing it.
Maybe those people that did ride Jet Racers did something in the tunnel to get wet as they were pretty soaked when they were done. It looked fun though.
As usual great write up, I had a great time road tripping. I even got a nice drivers tan on my left arm on the way back to Denver.
And no worries about picking your a$$ up and driving you around. Payback will be next month for coaster con as well as hitting holiday world and indiana beach before cedar point.
That's pretty freaky dude! Who would ever have thought?
Let's just hope you can make it out this way soon!
Your TR's always makes me feel like I am right there with ya!
Awesome man! I have really enjoyed them and am now itching to get to Texas, hopefully next year. :-D
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