I had a job interview on the west side of Harrisburg, so I decided on the way back I would stop off at Hersheypark for a few hours. I brought along a change of clothes, though I briefly considering going for the old-time look of the guys riding coasters in suits and ties. Since I didn't have a fedora to complete the look, I opted for a polo and shorts instead. I made my change at the rest stop near the Hershey exit of I-81 which deserves a TR in itself.
Now I generally call myself the king of bad timing, but this day seemed an exception in every way. I got to the park a little after 5, after a late lunch/early dinner at Red Robin. I saw they were having a "Bears Party" at the Giant Center to celebrate the hockey team winning the AHL championship the night before. I followed some guy with a Maryland plate and a Caps flag on his window who thought he was on the DC Beltway-- changing lanes at will with no signal. Luckily he drove into the Giant Center lot while I continued on.
Since it was later in the day, I decided to check out the parking lot closest to the park gate and maybe grab a spot where someone had just left. What I found was the entire section of parking next to the stadium that had been closed off was now open, and only a few cars were parked there. I saw the Eagles concert had been canceled, so I wonder if this was the reason. Awesome, I got a parking place right across from the sidewalk leading to the park.
My next stroke of luck was to see hundreds of middle school aged kids in their matching t-shirts all leaving the park as I walked down toward the entrance. I showed the woman at the gate my season pass, with the picture mostly faded from being in my wallet since last fall. I guess my face is on the back of another card now. She snippily told me that they would replace the card for free, and she had no idea who this person was. Right, I'm trying to infiltrate Hersheypark with a fake ID.
My first stop was going to be Midway America since I didn't get back there at all on Memorial Day weekend. Passed a bunch more school kids, and there were definitely (as opposed to defiantly) a lot more people heading toward the exits than toward the back of the park. I decided to walk through the Boardwalk area, since I hadn't seen the new attractions yet. I'm generally not a waterpark person, but I like the way the Boardwalk has that "shore town" look and feel to it. And Lightning Racer looks like a pier coaster where it borders the waterpark. I know some people aren't keen on this area, but I think it works. And it was crowded, so it's definitely popular.
LR was running 2 trains per side, with rows 5-8 chained off. I rode once on each side of LR, last seat on Lightning, 2nd seat on Thunder, and my train won both times. I don't know how Lightning won, because we seemed so far behind on the straightaways right up till the last turn. I noticed that Thunder seems to be catching the chain on the lift a fraction of a second before Lightning. This remains one of my favorite woodies.
Next I headed toward Wildcat. I usually do the Cat first and do the better woodie after. But the route worked out this way. It looked like all but 2 rows were being used, and 2 trains were running as well. I was a bit perturbed that the "line" actually extended out onto the ramp, since for the past few years it never seemed to go past the platform. I also laughed remembering the many times I waited an hour or more in that queue when Wildcat and Great Bear were "the" must rides. No sooner did I get to the back of the line when I heard them announce for people to remain seated and maintenance was coming. There was some problem with the train being dispatched, so they ended up having those people get out. It must have been a lap bar issue because they ended up sending the train through empty so they could unload the other train. I didn't wait around to see what the issue was or how long it would take to fix.
Fahrenheit looked to have a wait of half hour or more, so I decided I'd skip it for now and head over to Storm Runner. SR had absolutely no line, as I walked straight to the platform. Tip for SR riders: there's usually a mass of people gathered at the end of the front seat queue. But it often means there's hardly anyone in line for the second or third seats because many people don't want to go through the crowd. I scored a two train wait for the second seat, well two trains on the left side. One thing I did see that I didn't like was the op come with the measuring stick for a little girl waiting for the front seat. She was too short by maybe half an inch. Dad tried the old "but they let her on every other ride" routine, but the op stuck to his guns and they had to leave. I'm glad he didn't give in, but shouldn't they be doing the measuring at the ride entrance, not when the kid is next in line? I don't know what the person sitting at the entrance has to do otherwise.
SR is a great ride. I don't have any of the issues with the restraints that others mentioned. After 6-7 years, for me it hasn't gotten boring like some other rides can get.
Next I headed down the hill and up the hill into Minetown. Again, the line for Great Bear didn't extend from the platform. Even the front seat queue didn't go past the turn in the line. Apparently, everyone wanted to ride Fahrenheit tonight. Two train wait for the last row. This is now my favorite row. I love the feeling going through the inversions like the tip of the whip. After that, I rode SDL (next to last seat) and Comet (last seat). SDL was running two trains and going out half empty. They were allowing re-rides, but I only rode once. Comet also had no line, but like every other coaster I rode, a bunch of people showed up after I did. The loading didn't seem to take as long as it normally did. The MCBR was on, but it didn't slow the ride as much as I've experienced before. It was actually a lively ride.
After that, I just dawdled around, riding Skyview, buying some ice cream, then almost having a private ride on the Monorail. I was the only person on the train until 3 more people showed up and took the back car. What was also funny was that we actually were stacked near the station when we returned. I guess they held the next train until a few more people could board.
I ended up not riding Fahrenheit, skipping a $4 hot dog, but buying some chocolate before leaving the park. I was pretty lucky with lines, but in a final act of symmetry, another car with a Maryland plate went from the second lane over in the exit into the far left lane on Hersheypark Drive. Why was I not surprised?
It's always great to enter a park and see a ton of school kids leaving. Sounds like crowds were very reasonable.
I don't think I've ever experienced Comet not having a line. Even when all of the other coasters seem to be near walk-ons, Comet has always had a line that extends at the very least down that dreadful claustrophobic ramp.
Sounds like a nice evening at the park. Glad you had a good time and the crowds worked in your favor.
I was at the park this past weekend and also noticed that Comet's line was moving faster than usual. Not lightning quick but an acceptable clip. The line was also only about 10 minutes, that is the fastest I have ever got on that thing.
I think they are loading Comet faster because there aren't as many issues with people buckling, or actually not buckling, the seat belts as in the past. It seemed that inevitably at least one person per train would sit on their belts and they would have to keep releasing the buzz bars until that person stood up, reached under their butt, found the seat belt, then buckled it. It also used to be a major pain to try adjusting the length of the belts. They were always twisted. Meanwhile the other train is sitting in the brake run.
One thing I noticed a few times that peeved me off was groups blocking the queue entrances waiting for someone in their group to finish some food or drink item, tried convincing Aunt Lucy to ride, or decided where to meet the rest of their party who wasn't going on that coaster. Get in line or get out of the way!
You, know, RGB, I've seen your signature for a while, first the lyric about the waltzer, now the current Rockaway one. I knew I had heard them before, but it was like they were from a dream...they seemed "so far away from me." I finally looked them up today. I remember Dire Straits Tunnel Of Love from high school, I think the album was MAKING MOVIES. A friend had the LP, played me that song, and I used to think it was one of the most visually stunning (in terms of imagery) lyrics I'd heard. I haven't heard the song in many many years. Thanks for bringing it back to me.
Mark Knopfler certainly knew (knows?) his way around a song...
Now all we need is an actual ride based on the song.....I've always wanted one based on Bat Out Of Hell...
Thanks, Mike. And you're correct, Tunnel of Love is on the album "Making Movies." It's one of my all-time favorites. I agree that just about every song has great imagery in the lyrics-- Romeo and Juliet, Skateaway, Expresso Love, even Les Boys. I figure there are still a few lyrics I can take from Tunnel of Love and use in my signature.
I think they are loading Comet faster because there aren't as many issues with people buckling, or actually not buckling, the seat belts as in the past. It seemed that inevitably at least one person per train would sit on their belts and they would have to keep releasing the buzz bars until that person stood up, reached under their butt, found the seat belt, then buckled it.
But what has led to this change in behavior? They haven't changed the belts as far as I'm aware. (Still wishing for retractables) and it hard to believe that people just know what to do all of a sudden.
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