Dorney Park (July 1, 2005)

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Wednesday, July 6, 2005 11:06 PM
I had not been to Dorney Park since very late in the 2003 season. A few days after that visit I read on CB that Hercules had been unceremoniously closed and was slated for demolition. Little did I know that when I visited the park that would be the last time to ride that coaster. With Hydra The Revenge now in Hercules’ place, I thought it was time to once again visit Dorney, so at about mid-day on Friday, July 1, I started out. Schedules prevented Michele from being able to go, so I was on my own for this visit.

The arrival: There is saying that Pennsylvania hast two seasons; Winter and Construction. This is not a joke but the absolute truth. The normal 2 hour trip to Allentown took nearly two and a half hours thanks to construction and holiday traffic around Harrisburg. The same was true going home. Sorry, but I don’t see the logic of having two lanes of a four lane highway closed when those close lanes look absolutely drivable and no crews are working… especially the Friday before a holiday weekend. Oh well, that’s PennDot and PA state government. What more can I say. Besides, this is not the highway report, it’s a Trip Report… so…

I was concerned that being the Friday of what was a four day weekend for many people would mean that the park would be busy and that my late arrival may not have been the best thing. I could not have been further from the truthThe parking lot was probably only about one third full if that and I think I counted only 8 to 10 busses when I pulled in at around 2:30. I found an empty space very near the entrance, and buying my ticket and entering the park went very quickly because there was absolutely no one else entering at that time.

Talon: One Ride – Front Seat: While Hydra was my reason for being at Dorney, I just could not walk past Talon without a ride. Up the steps and into the queue for the front. It was a one train wait, though every other seat was a walk on. The one op that was there was more concerned about barking orders to anyone who happened to even lean against the railings (not sitting on them… just leaning against them). “OFF THE RAI LINGS!” The one train wait went a bit long as the train came to a stop as it entered the lift hill with the other train sitting on the break run (yes, even though it was a non existent crowd, two trains were being run). It didn’t take long to get the train moving again and the other train pulled into the station. My self and two other people were loaded into the front seat, while one or two other people were loaded in rows further back. We sat there for a while as two of the ops “discussed” how the trains were starting to stack. Guess he didn’t 1) take into consideration that the trains stacked because of the stoppage on the lift and 2) if he would have actually dispatched the train when loaded in stead of discussing the stacking problem the second train would not have stacked behind the train that I was sitting in that had yet to leave the station. Finally the op decided to give the “Dispatch” signal and we were off.

While the station situation seemed a bit surreal, Talon is still the fun ride that I remember. Great pacing, neat little compact layout, just enough intensity, and a wild helix that is nearly on the ground to end the ride. Exiting and seeing the gathering storm clouds to the west, I decided to skip another ride on Talon and get to Hydra before a storm hit and washed out the day.

Hydra The Revenge: Three total rides, all walk ons (and also my 200th coaster):Something was missing form the center of the park, and that was the massive wooden structure of the dearly departed and oft maligned Hercules. Approaching that huge coaster you got a sense of awe (or dread if you realized how rough it could be). Hydra gives no sense of awe. Low to the ground, it’s bright green track is hardly noticeable on the Dorney Park skyline.

the crowd being light, I was not expecting a huge line at Hydra… but I was expecting a line. The walk on surprised me. My first ride was in the back seat. With old Hercules the wild run from the station to the lift hill was very fun… some times the best part of the ride depending on how that temperamental beast was running… and they reassured us that the run from station of Hydra to the lift would contain just as much excitement in the form of the low speed Jojo Roll. At first I was not sure what I thought of this roll. After my second ride, I realized that I did not like it. It is taken at such a slow speed that your entire body weight is pressed against the OTSRs as you roll upside down. Not only that, but there is no inertial forces working on you… only the force of gravity… and your legs have a tendency to want to fall toward the ground… along with all the contents of your pockets. I found it really uncomfortable.

When the train reached the top of the lift hill, the view down the drop was rather underwhelming as were the elements that followed. They all looked like they could be good… but yet they just missed. They didn’t mesh well with each other, and added all together they just didn’t impress me that much. What also struck me as odd was the “roughness” of this coaster. It wasn’t any where near that of old Hercules, or many other coasters for that matter, but there was a good bit of vibrations and shaking going on with the train… and for a coaster, especially a B&M, in only its third month of operation not only was I expecting no shaking, but I was expecting a ride as smooth as glass.

Before I knew it, the train was heading back into the station. Now a short ride does not mean poor coaster. The neighboring Talon is not exactly a long coaster, but its design makes it a very good coaster that I find very impressive for its size. Hydra left no such impression.

I tried a front seat ride, hoping that perhaps the visual impact would make it a better ride. For the most part, the front seat is critical for visual impact on inverted coasters (other seats feel very claustrophobic) but is not as critical on floorless and sit down coasters since you have a clear field of view from all seats, but I was trying to give Hydra the benefit of the doubt. It made no difference. I found Hydra just as dull in the front seat.

After two rides in a row I moved on. Later in the day, before I left the park, I did take a third ride on Hydra, this time in the neutral middle. Still I found it to be a lack luster ride.

Say what you want about old Hercules. It may have been rough, it may not have been the most interesting of designs after the run from the station and the combination of the first drop and turn over the lake, but there was something about that coaster that, to me, had personality. Hydra doesn’t. I wanted to get excited about this coaster, but to me it is just a lot of twisted steel that wanders aimlessly around its course. For the most part I try to find something positive about every coaster I ride, so let me see… Hydra was my 200th coaster? Other than that, I found it very underwhelming and disappointing. B&M and Dorney really dropped the ball on this one.

Thunderhawk: 1 ride – walk on: Built in 1923 it probably the oldest structure in the entire park. It’s a Herb Schmeck coaster, so by that very fact alone it scores some points with me. However, looking at the second hill as the coaster crested the lift hill, I realized that something was terribly wrong. The coaster looked to be in need of some TLC, at the very least a new paint job. It seemed to be running a little rough, and when the train crested the second hill, I let out a slight yelp as it threw me hard into the buzz bar. Air is one thing, but this was just roughness. However I recovered form this by the time the train was heading into the bunny hop run to the station. The first hop was good and then… then the train practically stopped as the trim caught and we went limping back into the station. What happened to this coaster in the 20 months since my last visit?

Steel Force: 3 rides – Walk ons: After the let down of Hydra and the disappointment of the state of Thunderhawk, I was really looking forward to Steel Force, easily my favorite of Dorney’s line up. It was a near walk on, just a one train wait for the front seat. Sitting down, I noticed that the belt was catching a bit as I tried to extend it to buckle it. No matter… it buckled fine. Then I noticed something else as the train started going up the lift hill. It was rocking from side to side and the lift was moving very slowly. When the train hit the top of the hill, it slowed drastically as the chain made a strange clunking sound. The drop was fun as was the air at the top of the next hill, but the smoothness of the coaster was gone. There was a lot of vibration of the train as it ran its course. This was also evident in the helix turn around and the bunny hops back to the station. While still a good ride, it just seemed to be rougher than I remembered. I tried another front seat ride followed by a back seat ride. I also noticed, like Thunderhawk, Steel Force is in need of some paint… its bright red tracks faded to a dull red with some rust showing. Its trains also look like they could use some rehab too.

After the three rides on Steel Force, I contemplated Laser, but that ride actually had a line. I was hot and irritable, and the humidity was oppressive, so I decided not to wait and headed back toward the entrance of the park, giving Hydra a third and final chance on my way (as described above). After being in the park only an hour and a half and a total of 8 coaster rides, I was climbing in back into my car, realizing that no matter how much I was unimpressed with Hydra’s layout, it was still better planned than the “alternate traffic patterns” that lay ahead of me in the PennDot construction zones.

Bottom Line: Dorney left me cold this visit. This was my 3rd visit in 5 years. On my other two I gave the park good reviews, but on this visit, I can’t. The park over all just seemed to lack something this time. I never considered Dorney to be a charming park… but there was at least some personality there. This time I didn’t feel any of that.

The ride ops and employees in general were kind of lethargic. It could have been the weather… hot, humid, and the threat of storms. I was uncomfortable because of that… I can assume that they were too. However, many of them seemed more concerned about socializing with their friends or about when they were going on break or getting off work for the day. I am not saying that they were negligent though. They were still following all the rules and things were safe… they just seemed miserable and unconcerned about their customers. On a previous visit to Dorney, I saw one employee warn a group of three guys that “shirts are required,” when she saw then walking shirtless through the park. On this visit, it looks like the “shirts and shoes required” rule was thrown out the window. I can’t tell you how many guys were walking around with no shirts on, and how many guys and girls were walking around barefooted… and no employees seemed to bother to say anything to them.

The other thing that surprised me was the state of Thunderhawk and Steel Force. Talon seemed to be maintained well, but these two coasters looked like they could have used a bit of maintenance. This surprised me considering how pristine they looked on my two prior visits.

Again, maybe it was the heat and humidity maybe I was just tired from the previous week and our vacation (2,023 miles, 5 parks and 15 light houses in 6 days) and I was not being very kind in my evaluation… or maybe the let down of Hydra had me kind of bummed… or maybe the quality of Dorney had dropped so drastically in the past 20 months. What ever the case was, I was not impressed at all with this visit. As I told Michele when I got home, Dorney will probably have to get something big and new before I visit again.

*** Edited 7/7/2005 3:11:13 AM UTC by SLFAKE***

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Thursday, July 7, 2005 12:46 AM
I'm surprised about your comments about the Talon crew. Maybe you just had a different batch than has been there when I've ridden it. Usually the people on the platform are pretty cool and have no problem engaging in some friendly chit-chat. And I didn't notice any problems with dispatch/stacking. Guess you were just unlucky.

Hydra seems to be a love it or hate it kinda coaster. From what I've been hearing and reading, there is no middle ground.

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Thursday, July 7, 2005 6:21 AM
Talon's stacking: guess it didn't come through in my TR... the only two reasons why Talon stacked...

First: The one train stopped at the bottom of the lift did not allow the second train to pull into the station when it returned... thus, stacking.

Second: When the stuck train was moving again and the first stacked train moved into the station, was unloaded and then reloaded with the next group of passengers, the one crew member (who had just arrived in time to see the stuck train moving and the stacked second train) was giving his fellow crew members a big lecture on his perceved "stacking problem", that no one bothered to dispatch the second loaded train before the first (the previously stuck train) returned to the station and thus "stacked" waiting for the second undispatched train.

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Thursday, July 7, 2005 1:48 PM
I followed you, SL, I was just saying I've never experienced anything like that-- at least not two trains in a row. I've seen a train stopped on the lift for a few seconds that the second train had to wait outside the station, but that was about it. No big deal.

Guess the pompous know it all you encountered wasn't on duty those days I was there.

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Friday, July 8, 2005 4:24 PM
Is it just me or is this guy really moaning about what I thought was a wonderful and amusing Dorney Park? I've never heard of such problems as roughness on Steel Force, and well, Thunderhawk (some ppl are immune to the roughness of woodies and some aren't) happens to be one of my favorite (and first) coasters ever. I never heard such comments about this park. Every time I go there, I never have any problems with the employees or with any of the rides, but this visit just sounded dreadful in a enthusiastic person's eyes. I just hope when I visit sometime in the next couple of weeks, the overall atmosphere will be much more enjoyable compared to this viewer's rantings.

Dorney was always known for its friendliness combined with great thrills, but how the heck does a park change so quickly? Let's hope that Hercules didn't "jinx" the park into what was always a great exciting experience to a letdown. I haven't visited it since '03, so maybe things have changed. Oh well, live and learn, and then, have fun.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005 8:28 AM
Dptalon05...

"This guy" hasn't visited since '03 either... one of Hercules last running days to be exact. I can't find my TR from that time... I am not even sure if I bothered to write one... but I do remember that I had a much better impression of the park back then than now.

Roughness on Steel Force: Not incredible roughness... but a lot of vibrating and shuddering compared to the smooth as glass ride it gave back in 2003. Same goes with Thnunderhawk. Its a wood coaster... they are by nature a little "rough'... but this was brutal, and not in the fun way Hercules used to be brutal. Compared to my last visit, when these two ran near perfectly, things just seemed to have slipped since then.

I'm looking as objectively at this as I can, not having any special sentimentality toward Dorney. I don't remember all the details of my very first visit to Dorney back in 1980 (face it, practically a different park than what you see today), but I do remember that I was impressed and pleasantly surprised in my visits in 2001 and 2003. My recent 2005 visit was not that great. As I said in the TR... could have been the miserable hot and humid weather, making everyone, workers and guests a like, cranky... I don't know. In the two weeks prior to my Dorney visit, I had visited 3 other CF parks (Cedar Point, Michigan's Adventure, Geauga Lake)... and mabe I was comparing too much to the excelent experiences at each of those parks.

Or perhaps I should just go on a nicer day.

Sorry if you don't agree with or can't believe what you have read in my TR... Just relaying my experience, perception and opinion.

I would have hoped I just caught the park on a bad day. Next time could be a glowing review. Who knows.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005 10:20 PM
Hydra was great, whats your issue? It was smooth as hell for me. Even if it wasnt like floating on air, lets not forget its a ROLLER COASTER and is not meant to ride like a lincoln town car.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005 4:11 PM
Just comparing Hydra to other B&M's... especially B&M Floorless...

Kraken (Sea World Orlando): ridden in 2001 - in its 8th month of operation, smooth as glass

Medusa (SFGrAdv): Ridden August 2004 - its 6th season. A little shuddering, some rough spots... but not bad.

Dominator (Geauga Lake): Ridden June 2005 - its 6th season. Some rough spots, some vibrations... but not bad.

Hydra: Ridden July 2005, just into its 2nd full month of service... Rough spots and shuddering equivalent to the 6 year old Medusa (at the time) and Dominator.

What I am saying is... yes, coasters are not Lincoln Town Cars... but for a two month old coaster I was expecting a smoother ride than what Kraken delivered. When I rode old Hercules, I realized it was a wooden coaster that was several years old... and I was expecting ROUGH (and I was not let down!). But with Hydra... for a B&M to be clattering over the tracks like that? I was not expecting that much from a NEW coaster.

Again, could have been a lot of other factors weighing in... namely the humidity. Not sure if it could make the coaster any rougher... but it could make riders more iritable.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005 4:39 PM
I was at Dorney yesterday, and was paying special attention to Steel Force after reading your TR a couple of days ago. It felt fine to me. Other than the life slowing down to a crawl as you begin to go over the top, i didnt feel anything but smmothness, as always, on the ride. As for Hyrda, good coaster, smooth, but nothing special. The jojo roll was different, especially for my 10 yr old daughter, who being tiny, really moved around while flipping at such a slow speed. Overall, all rides walk ons, Dorney still a great place.
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