Dave and John Conquer Hydra -- Dorney Park 9-5-05

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Monday, September 5, 2005 5:37 PM
After a summer filled with failed attempts to hit our local east coast Cedar Fair park, my coasting companion John and I decided to make use of the holiday and hit up Dorney Park. We had added incentive as today was the last day the free tickets his parents had acquired at the start of the summer were eligible for use.

We got to the park around 9:30 and paid the relatively inexpensive $8 parking fee. We didn't mind so much since the tickets were free, and having shown up so early, our spot was only three rows from the front gate. At the gate, we learned that our tickets were eligible only if we paid the upgrade fee, since it was a holiday -- we later learned it would be a $5 upcharge. So to recap: admission and parking for $9 each...were we really going to complain?


FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The first thing I noticed about the park was the same thing I've always noticed about Dorney, but have perhaps never articulated: the park always looks clean and bright. This can be attributed, I feel, to two specific details: a) the presence of plentiful garbage cans, and b) the fresh looking paint on all the major rides. Talon and Hydra were brilliant, the Meteor and Hang Time looked brand new, and many of the older rides down in the valley still looked like they had a fresh burst of life. It was refreshing to say the least.

I'm also not quite sure why I never noticed this before, but Dorney is not a particularly large park, neither in size nor in the total number of rides. There is an abundance of balanced kiddie rides, but the flats aren't as plentiful as I'd like them to be, especially on a day where we were determined to hit more than just the coasters.


THE RIDES

TALON -- We began the day with a spin on Talon, which was (as always) a pleasure. Everyone involved with this ride really did a stand-up job, from the pacing to the speed to the presence of unusual-for-inverts airtime. Not to mention that (again) the paint job looked fantastic and made the ride feel brand new. Nice and smooth, forceful when it needed to be, it's certainly one of the best inverts out there, without question.

HANG TIME -- Dorney's Top Spin offers up a pretty interesting ride sequence, one that lingers more on rocking and airtime than on flips (which is the forte of SFGAdv's program). It's refreshing because the ride is a bit scarier when your whole body is reacting the way it is. In addition, this particular sequence is longer than SFGAdv's all-too-short program. I likes it.

HYDRA: THE REVENGE -- And then, the waiting was over. After a wait of only one train, John and I found ourselves on the back row of Hydra, my 123rd new coaster. Right off the bat, this coaster feels different from all the other floorless I've ridden: the seats are much deeper and tilted further back than those on, say, Medusa, and the station isn't highly elevated, but rather uses its place in the terrain to keep itself relatively low to the ground. All told, its initial appearance makes it very inviting.

My first impression of Hydra was one of surprise because the layout is surprisingly two-dimensional. After the jojo roll, it's basically out, back, and out again, in a fairly linear progression. It struck me as odd that Hercules, which made such excellent use of the terrain and the lake, would be replaced by a ride that stays almost exclusively at the top of the hill. Another surprise was the complete lack of any perfectly vertical inversions, a move I can only chalk up to design matching theming -- an A+ move from the visual standpoint.

Now, for the ride. The first thing to be mentioned is, of course, the jojo roll, which was one of the most pleasant surprises of the ride. Something about the inversion doesn't quite feel like an inversion, maybe because you never quite experience the feeling of falling out of your seat. And the way the final twist blends seamlessly into the 180* onto the lift hill is fantastic. So far, off to a great start.

The first drop had the usual air over the top that comes from being in the back, and while short, the drop certainly felt longer than it should have. Diving into the first inversion, I was surprised at how much the train felt like it was rattling from side to side -- not the usual velvety smoothness I would expect from a brand-new B&M. The tilted loop leads into a nice zero-G roll that, if I'm not mistaken, rolls in the opposite direction of most B&M rolls. The corkscrew that follows it however, seems like a bit of a mistake because the two inversions just feel too similar -- the corkscrew almost feels redundant. Maybe it's just me.

Then there's the cobra roll. Here again, the tilted nature of the inversion looks cool, but the train seems to navigate it a bit roughly. Might just be me, but it didn't really feel any cooler when you're actually on the ride. The roll leads to a nice twisted section with some very cool airtime moments, leading into the final corkscrew and helix. Here also the ride doesn't feel all that smooth, almost like it's off just a bit and because of that, you get rattled around.

The sum of my thoughts on Hydra was that it wasn't too bad, but it wasn't too great either. What's billed as a monster coaster just ends up feeling like something was left off the plate before the meal was served. I got off wishing it had done something more, and it just didn't.

DOMINATOR -- Hit both sides, the up and the down. The Turbo Drop always has (and still does!) scared the crap out of me -- and that's why I love it! And the Power Shot is just a tremendous rush as well, but in a completely different way -- more adrenaline, less nerves.

THUNDERHAWK -- Not the smoothest, tallest, most twisted, most force-filled woodie out there, but it's still pretty fun -- and a hell of a lot better than Rotting Lumber any day of the week.

From there, we headed towards Steel Force and hit a pair of pitfalls along the way. First, I saw Revolution from the Thunderhawk and craved another chance to ride it -- but upon sitting in the seat, I was informed that I'd have to get off because the harness wouldn't close completely. Now, the Revolution is the same model as The Claw at Hersheypark, and I just rode that three weeks ago with no issues whatsoever -- and I know I didn't pack on the pounds since then, so what gives? I didn't bother complaining, just got off and decided to hit Steel Force with John. And then, surprise #2: Steel Force is closed! Once again, no questions, just a trek back to the other side of the park. But not before a few stops...

LASER -- Ahh, Anton. This baby is short and sweet and packs all the necessary punches. Of course, it would help if they installed something more than a K'nex motor kit in the lift hill... ;)

MONSTER -- It's a carnival-style octopus ride, what's not to love?

THE WHIP -- I'd never ridden a whip before, and I felt it was a crime, so John and I took a spin. Damn, was that fun! I would've thought the middle parts would be boring, but the actual whipping is much more intense than I was expecting, so by the time I recovered from it, there I was being whipped again! Tons of fun, and totally worth any kind of wait, even though it was a walk-on.

We decided to grab some lunch at Coasters Drive-In near the main midway. What a freaking rip-off. The chicken on that sandwich couldn't have come from a bird any larger than Tweety. That an a medium Coke for $8.50 -- you've got to be kidding me. After lunch, we thought about riding the Screamin' Swing upcharge for $5 each, but it didn't really look as intense as we previously thought so we passed. We also passed on the Wild Mouse, after waiting 20 minutes and having the line go nowhere -- though, blissfully, it was the only ride with a line all day.

We took the opportunity while at this end of the park to take on Talon once more, and I took a very entertaining spin on the METEOR before John and I decided to tackle Hydra once more, this time from the front. I will say that this is definitely a front-seat ride, as the experience was much more exciting. Still not much to write home about, but a step up from the back seat. After our last Hydra ride, we trekked back to...

STEEL FORCE -- We took one ride in the back seat, then sat through a 20-minute breakdown to get a front-row ride here as well. My first thought was to how this ride, which is pretty well broken in, could have so many problems with its brake system (the cause of both breakdowns)? But then, after two rides, the thought process changed to, "How could a ride so big, and with so many hills, be so boring?" Steel Force rides almost totally forceless, contrary to what one would suspect. It tries very hard to be like Magnum XL-200; it even looks like Magnum, but Magnum it is not.

At this point, John's stomach was reeling because his theme park tolerance was way down, so we took one last spin on the Whip, one more drop on Dominator, and hit the rookie road. All told, I left the park with a new coaster for the track record, a new flat ride on the favorites list, and a stuffed Stewie Griffin that I earned for shooting water into the clown's mouth fastest! And on a side note: major kudos goes out to the game attendant who warned us not to play one of the 25-cent games because it was fixed.

I was mostly impressed with Dorney on this trip, especially given that on Labor Day, there were almost no lines anywhere. The park never felt empty, though, and many employees were still friendly and helpful. Hydra, which was the main draw of the day, didn't completely live up to my expectations for it, but that didn't put a damper on the day. In just shy of five hours, we were able to traverse the park back and forth twice and hit all the major rides we wanted to during those ventures. All told, a great day! :)

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Monday, September 5, 2005 11:38 PM
Methinks I need to hit Dorney again before the season is over. Perhaps a Halloweekend.

Great TR, Nitro. I really like the Whip at Dorney too. But I think at a CF park, you have to say the chicken couldn't have come from a bird bigger than Woodstock. :)

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Friday, September 9, 2005 6:45 AM
Great TR, Dave.

123, eh? You've almost caught up to me ;).

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Friday, September 9, 2005 9:56 AM
Dave--An excellent Trip Report and I agree with you about the cleanliness of the park but, in an odd sense, for me, it seems almost sterile and devoid of feeling. I think that this is because there is a dramatic lack of any real trees or vegetation. Dorney is truly a PAVED PARK and the same phenom occurs when you visit Michigan's Great Adventure, a young park that could do with a major infusion of landscaping.

As for your HYDRA experience, you reminded me, too, of the very unusual sensation of rattling that goes on with that ride. I found it curious that, no matter where I sat, the thing shakes, rattles and rolls you--but not in the sense that it should or that most B&M's have in the past. It felt as if there was a design element or an engineering aspect to the whole thing that. . .wasn't quite right.

Finally, I agree with you about the terrain usage as well. The ride could have gone a lot of other places but seems so, well, contained. Truncated.

I'm not sure they should really bill it as the Monster Ride because, for me, it's anything but.

But, again, excellent TR and thanks!

Barry J.

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Friday, September 9, 2005 5:00 PM
I too, felt the Hydra rattle...it's weird. I did love the ride though.

Steel Force is awesome though, and I actually prefer it to Magnum; why I'm not sure. I will say that it DOES have great forces and DOES have airtime, you just have to work a little harder to experience it.

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