After a couple hours, we were finally away from all signs of society and on the open road. Well, open except for the dozen or so police officers we saw along the way. This didn’t make the extremely boring drive through South Carolina any better, or shorter. Finally, after a grueling 7 hour drive, we rolled into the Comfort Inn & Suites on Ocean Drive, located across the street from Family Kingdom Amusement Park and right on the beach. We were hesitant about our accommodations, but were pleasantly surprised, as the room was recently remodeled and was only $90 a night for a suite.
It was about at this point, while browsing over brochures in the lobby, that my wife realized I had turned our trip to the beach into a coaster trip. I mean, why not hit 3 parks in a few hours if we’re already there, right? Well, I ended up compromising and skipping a visit to Grand Prix, but we’ll get to that later.
The sun arose, as did we, and we made our way onto the beach for a few hours of sun. I have always lived close enough to a beach where it was considered a day trip, but it was nice to have a whole weekend to relax. South Carolina beaches are odd, as the coastline is at an angle, and the sun does not rise perpendicular to the shoreline as it does in most of FL.
Three hours, several beers, and one injury later (I cut myself trying to open a bottle with my lighter), we made our way back to the room for some lunch and rest before heading out to Family Kingdom. We ended up ordering from some gourmet pizza place that forgot ½ of the toppings listed on the menu on each of our personal pizzas. It was decent cuisine, but nothing special.
A short walk took us into the gates of Family Kingdom. Laurie is not a theme park aficionado, and has pretty much avoided parks after the horrible experiences she had at PKD and SFNE. As I got my wristband ($16.50 for POP at the hotel) and headed for my first ride on Swamp Fox, she decided she would be happier watching TV and resting at the hotel.
The Swamp Fox is a 1966 John Allen wooden coaster billed as the “only all-wooden coaster in South Carolina.” I could have sworn that at least one of the PC woodies was in SC, but I may be wrong. Since when is advertising correct 100%, or even 50% of the time anyways? I chose the last row for my first ride on this small, 75-foot, family-friendly coaster. While there were a couple spots of airtime, it felt as though the train was moving at the wrong speed. It was as if the air through you upwards and forward into the buzzbar at the same time. Not a very comfortable experience, but I had heard mixed reviews so I went back for a ride up front. I didn’t get thrusted into the bar up there; in fact I pretty much didn’t get thrusted in any direction. It felt as though each time you were about to get some decent airtime, the coaster would slow down just enough for it to not happen.
I eventually got 4 rides total, with no wait each time. There was only one train running, and no need for the second one. The station layout is similar to another John Allen coaster, the Cannon Ball at Lake Winnie with separate loading and unloading stations. The best parts of the Swamp Fox are the location and the views from the top of the lift. There were many young children enjoying every minute of this coaster, and I feel it is a good fit for a park with the word ‘family’ in the name.
I headed past the assortment of flat rides, including a ‘temporarily closed’ Gravitron, and made my way to the Sally dark ride, Pistoleros. This is one of the first, if not thee first shoot-‘em-up rides by Sally. It featured an outdoor loading platform, with the ride scenes in a building in the adjacent parking lot. It appeared as though a Mexican restaurant closed, and Family Kingdom built a ride over the property line into the old building. The scenes were cute, but I don’t remember my score as I couldn’t see it with the glare of the sun found outside the building.
Other than the Swamp Fox, I was also interested in the Chance Slingshot. This is a shot/drop combination tower that debuted in the park a season or two ago. I’m a big fan of drop rides, and with Acrophobia in my backyard, I have come to expect a lot. I sat down, and the one operator had his foot under a small metal covering on the platform. The other operator was in the booth, saying “lift up your foot, now put it down, now lift it up…” It appeared as though these guys had no idea what was going on. Finally the ride started, and was preparing for its initial launch, which was quite powerful. This is the first shot tower I’ve been on that didn’t bounce, so it was odd to shoot up and stop at the top. After quite a long time, the ride finally dropped, but was extremely disappointing. I have been on elevators that traveled faster than this. I thought it might have had something to do with me being the only one on the ride, but I saw full rides later that day drop just as slow.
Next up was the park’s log flume, which had a concrete trough and actually floated, as opposed to most log flumes these days that roll along the course. It had two decent drops, the first being a coaster-style drop with a dip in the middle. As the only passenger, there wasn’t enough weight in the boat to provide a large splash, but it was enough to slightly cool me off as the temperatures soared towards 90 degrees.
I was worn out from the sun, but took a spin on the park’s permanently installed Chance Yo-Yo to finish off the afternoon. I think this is a smaller model, as it seems to spin at the same speed as other Yo-Yos, but made for more nausea due to the smaller circumference. I actually felt dizzy, partially due to the ride and partially due to the sun, so I headed back to the hotel for a nap so I could rejuvenate myself for an evening at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion.
Two hours later, and we got in the car heading north a few blocks to the Pavilion. This park is one of the few remaining seaside parks in America, and its days are numbered. I personally do not understand why this plot of land is being redeveloped, while the multitude of sub-standard motels along Ocean Drive remains. With the large crowds that were present, one would think this park serves as the saving grace of the downtown area. I can’t see the droves of people that were at Pavilion entertaining the thought of wasting their money on a Hard Rock establishment. It doesn’t fit into the environment, and will not succeed. But enough of my .02…..
After parking at the Pavilion garage for $6.00, we walked across the street and got my POP hand stamp. Laurie was going to evaluate the park offerings before deciding on a POP or pay per ride admission for herself. After taking a look at the wide variety of attractions, she purchased a POP, but got a wristband instead. I personally would rather have gotten a wristband myself, as the stamp wasn’t as permanent, but managed to stay there all night. It seemed as though none of the ride ops were even checking for POP stamps, and only took tickets from those handing them out willingly. One noticeable attribute about the Pavilion was the great condition of all the flat rides. The paint, lights, and structures all seemed to be cared for by the staff. I wish I could say the same about their wooden coaster, but you’ll have to keep reading for that.
The first ride of the evening was the Huss Rainbow, which featured seating that faced the beach. The ride appeared to be running very fast, and after it started, I knew I was in for a treat. It bothers me that many theme parks continue to operate rides, such as this, in a fashion that makes them tame. The Pavilion threw this idea out the window, and gave a great ride that provided amazing float at the top and awesome laterals while rising and falling.
Up next was the parks Mack family coaster, the Little Eagle. This is quite possibly the best themed kiddie coaster I’ve been on, complete with water and tunnel! We got a double circuit, and weren’t the only adults on board.
After a quick stop for some cotton candy, we made our way to Hurricane: Category 5. This CCI steel-framed wooden coaster is sandwiched alongside the park, and the layout is somewhat hard to make out. I had seen an overhead photo of the ride when it debuted, but really had no idea what to expect. Laurie sat this one out, and I opted for a ride in row 1-2. We headed over the top of the lift, and while staring down the first drop, I realized just how steep it was. Over the train went, and this is where the torture began. Not only was this ride so rough that I had to hold on and brace myself from causing permanent damage, but it was making some seriously scary noises throughout the ride. Most noticeable was a loud screeching noise while going over the 2nd and 3rd hills, presumably due to poor train maintenance. There were a few good moments of airtime, but definitely not worth another ride. I can honestly that say this ride makes Son of Beast seem as smooth as a B&M. I don’t know if the park has let the ride deteriorate because of financial woes, or if the older style Gerstlauer trains just weren’t meant for a ride of this caliber. I could see how it may have been thrilling in opening years, but now this ride is a credit and nothing more.
The Mack Calypso was next door, and Laurie and I both had never ridden one of these. I always thought the cars were free spinning, but after actually watching a cycle, I realized it was just like a Scrambler on an incline. We basically laughed the whole time, and there were some interesting forces caused by the incline of the ride.
I had heard good things about the bumper cars at Pavilion, so the Super Skooter bumper cars were next on my list. The ride before us was made up of mostly children under the age of 10. The operators were consistently stopping the ride to free the drivers from being stuck. Then, one kid was going in circles and whammed head on into another kid, who jumped of the ride screaming and crying and ran to the exit. This was immediately followed by an abuse session of utmost embarrassment. Oh well, my ride was awesome! These cars move fairly fast, and allow for some good bumping action.
After passing the 2nd closed Gravitron of the trip (which I wouldn’t have ridden anyways), we boarded the Siberian Sleigh Ride, a Mack Petersburger Schlittenfahrt. The cycle consisted of both forwards and backwards motion, and was just the right length. Last time I rode one of these, I felt as if it was never going to end.
We grabbed some ice cream and headed for the Wave Swinger next. While a great set of swings, we did have an unfortunate experience while on-board. The empty seat in front of Laurie began buckling like crazy, and swung back, smashing into her shin. This would prove to be a problem later that night, and she still has quite a bruise from it. In addition to this, it seems as if the chairs are much too low to the ground and surrounding bushes. We were smashing our legs on everything as the ride ended. This is an example of a great ride with some irritating and inconvenient flaws.
The Arrow Mad Mouse was next, and we walked on to a front seat ride. Aside from the extreme jerk when engaging the lift, this was a great mouse! There were no brakes, so the final drops gave some nice air, and the laterals weren’t too extreme due to the track banking. My second ride in the back seat wasn’t as pleasant, as the final bumps produced a whiplash motion, but nonetheless a good ride.
The most original ride in the park had to have been the Mack Raupenbahn, also known as the Caterpillar. It is similar to a Music Express type ride, only without the elevated hill. It moves over three humps while traveling in a circle forwards in backwards. Once the ride gets up to speed, a cover comes over the top of the ride vehicle, immersing you in darkness! When I was 4 years old, I remember my sisters riding something similar to this, possibly the original Traver model. It was nice to see such a well maintained and original ride operating at its full potential.
The Huss Topspin was one of the rides I had been looking forward to. Every time I’m at a park with one of these, I never have enough time to take a ride on it. I did get on Tomb Raider last year at King’s Island, but had heard that this particular model ran a fairly intense program. There were two points in the ride in which the gondola flipped 3 times, and almost a fourth consecutively. Other than that, we basically moved back and forth and rocked a little. If this is a good program, I’d hate to see a weak one.
After a quick spin on the Antique Cars, we made our way to the parks interesting carousel. It featured all sorts of animals, including cats, dogs, frogs, giraffes, and many other interesting species. Laurie got her choice of riding the cats, and we rode for the ridiculously long cycle. One funny thing we noticed was the sound system tower located adjacent to the original organ.
I decided to brave the log flume while Laurie took a break. This ride is taken straight out of Roller Coaster Tycoon. One moment there are a ton of logs in the station, and the next they are all out on the course and the line builds, waiting for them to return. I was told there was a surprise on this flume, and it really caught me off guard! If you head to Pavilion, do not miss this ride.
After a quick spin on the Huss Enterprise (which wasn’t anything special and barely went vertical), I decided to catch one last ride on the parks rapids ride, the Hydro-Surge. Laurie didn’t feel like getting wet, so I boarded with a family and stray child. The waterfalls were turned off, but there was plenty of water in the boat when the ride was over. Fortunately, I didn’t bear the brunt of the waves like I usually do, so it was enjoyable. The only thing missing from this ride was a center console for which to rest your feet and hold on to. The rapids were quite rough, and my feet were probably the wettest part on my body.
After a fun night, with the exception of Laurie’s minor injury on the swings, we made our way back to the hotel to eat dinner. I had decided to forego my plans of heading to Grand Prix for their Reverchon Crazy Mouse because I was exhausted. Now I have a reason to go back to Myrtle Beach if I don’t make it before Pavilion closes for good.
All in all, it was an awesome weekend, and the drive back went much smoother. What is with the Bojangle’s in South Carolina? There seemed to be one at every exit. Let me go on record saying that Bojangle’s ain’t got nothin’ on Popeye’s! In closing, I’d like to thank the following for making the trip enjoyable:
* Comfort Inn & Suites Myrtle Beach
* Amstel Light
* Smirnoff Twisted Cranberry (Laurie’s girly drink)
* The Gay Dolphin – land of endless crap
* Kaskade’s album entitled ‘It’s You, It’s Me’
* Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion
* Parliament Lights (damn soft pack!)
AWESOME TR. I haven't been to MB in about 14 years and am going down there sometime this summer to "catch up" and revist some places I used to go as a kid. My family used to vacation there every summer growing up, mostly at the Lakewood Campgound. I really miss it.
Anyway, I am glad you had fun! Question though........how in the WORLD do you open a beer bottle with a lighter? lol.
I love Myrtle, keep insisting that as soon as I'm stable enough financially, I AM going to move there.
Matt D said:
It was about at this point, while browsing over brochures in the lobby, that my wife realized I had turned our trip to the beach into a coaster trip. I mean, why not hit 3 parks in a few hours if we’re already there, right?
I can relate to that Matt. I'm going to have a hard time balancing coaster and non-coaster stuff this summer.
After many uses, the lighter gets worn and won't work anymore. Needless to say, I now have a Myrtle Beach bottle opener in my travel bag!
Neuski: I do not recommend disguising a trip. Instead, just do an every-other thing. My wife usually doesn't care if I take a coaster trip with friends while she has a girls night back at home. Gotta love that!
Pale Rider: Maybe I hit it on a bad day, but this coaster was awful. I think I lost a year off my life just by getting on it once.
**edits for my lazy typo-ridden self
*** Edited 5/25/2004 10:06:42 PM UTC by Matt D***
Matt D said:
Pale Rider: Maybe I hit it on a bad day, but this coaster was awful. I think I lost a year off my life just by getting on it once.
Ouch! That is pretty bad ;)
Guess it takes one 2 know 1;)
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