I arrived at the park a little after 6:00 and managed to get a parking space right along the edge of the driveway next to the stadium, a few rows back from the HC parking. More often than not, it pays to search for a parking space closer to the entrance when arriving later in the day.
Comet- While walking down the hill past Skyview into Comet Hollow, I noticed only a few people gathered at the top of the ramp by the platform. For whatever reason, I took that as a sign that the crowd was all at the Boardwalk. Wrong. It turns out Comet was temporarily down, and I mistook the lack of seeing a train on the course for its usual slow loading procedure. A small group was waiting just outside the queue canopy. I felt bad for the young kid holding back the line since he was getting the inevitable question “How long is it going to be?” A question I would hear several times that evening.
Actually, deciding to wait paid off, since once people noticed the test trains running, the line behind us got much longer. Within minutes, we were headed up the ramp toward the station. Spying an opening past the crowd milling about the middle of the platform, I got into the line for seat 2 with a two train wait.
The kid who was running crowd control down below was now working the platform and politely thanked me for buckling the belt in the seat opposite me. I rode behind 2 kids around 9-10 years old, who were genuinely nervous about their first front seat ride. They weren’t disappointed, since the ride was decent and fun but not too exciting thanks to the mid course brakes. I’m still not fond of what I think is the overly redundant restraint system. It only took one cycle until a returning train was waiting in the brake run for the next to dispatch.
SDL- for the first time in years, I didn’t walk directly into the station. Instead I was stopped about three steps from the top, but still only waited around 3-4 rides for the 1st seat-2nd car. Still amazing to think that at one time that entire queue would be full of people. This is a fun ride that often gets overlooked because of the newer, larger more thrilling rides.
Great Bear- Another huge queue that was mostly bypassed. The line waiting for the front seat did extend to the back of the platform. I decided to take the back seat and enjoy the whipsnap feeling of the train pulling us through the elements. I rode on the left side while a father and young son took the right hand seats. The ride may be a bit short, but I love the pre-drop helix and the way the ride weaves between SDL and the flume and from Minetown through Comet Hollow and back again.
After that, it was after 7PM and I thought some food was in order, so I stopped at Boardwalk Fries for a drink and some fries. I sat at one of the tables near Falcon and watched a few cycles. I thought to myself that in the many times I’ve come to the park I’d never ridden the Falcon or visited the Zoo. I wasn’t moved enough to try either tonight either.
I headed down the hill in the direction of Storm Runner, but then decided to grab a sandwich of some kind and save myself a second food stop later. I went to Freeman’s BBQ for a beef sub. There was a bluegrass group doing a show in the country grill.
While adding condiments to the sandwich, I was thinking there was something very familiar about the song they were playing. And then it hit me—they were doing a bluegrass version of Crazy Train. Musically, they were talented, but you still have to laugh at the song choice.
Flyers—I figured after the food a break was in order before another coaster ride, so I thought I’d give the Flyers a spin. The line was rather long, and filled with mostly smaller kids and their parents. The wait was about 4 cycles, with the loading seeming to take much longer than the rides themselves. Anybody know why the queue has both a gate and a chain between the queue and ride? This ride is definitely a “family” ride, (difficult to try to snap) but it is possible to swing out pretty wide on them.
Lightning Racer— Since it appeared there was a large number of people milling around the entrance for Storm Runner, I decided to head toward Midway America instead. On the way, I couldn’t help but notice “the banner” mounted on the side of the Western Chute Out structure.
As I entered the queue, I noticed someone leaning over the railing of Thunder’s exit ramp, waving at a running security guard as if to say “hurry up.” Apparently someone had passed out or gotten sick and was horizontal at the top of the ramp. So of course, ride operation has to be suspended until the person can be checked out and taken away in a wheelchair.
The announcement that the ride was temporarily closed brought more shouts of “how long will it be?” but also a few people deciding to bolt the line. I took advantage of that to move up 2 or 3 spots in the first seat queue for Lightning. One kid I was explaining this to in line had a hard time understanding why it wouldn’t be a good idea to unload trains while someone was lying passed out on the exit ramp.
The wait wasn’t all that long, and soon enough, it was our turn to ride. This is one great coaster, and the ride in the night air was smooth and fast. I decided to take a second ride in the back seat of Thunder. My train won both times, including a come from behind victory on Lightning. I noticed just a larger crowd than usual in line for LR tonight. Maybe the Boardwalk is bringing more people over this way.
Wildcat—I walked right to the station. Have never done that before. That’s a damn long walk! Thanks to some folks who wanted to ride together, I moved immediately to the next train in the second seat. The ride is much improved with the new trains. There are still a few rough spots on the track, but none of the teeth-chattering, headache-inducing that was prevalent last year. Seemed to be just about the right amount of being tossed about.
Storm Runner—I headed back toward Pioneer Frontier hoping I could catch a ride on Storm Runner and possibly a night ride on Great Bear to end the evening. I didn’t get too far before I reached the back of the line. To my relief though, I saw that both sets of interior switchbacks weren’t being used. Within a few minutes I was at the top of the stairs scoping out the shortest row. Usually, with the long line of people waiting for the front seat, the second and third rows have few people. I got in line for the third seat just as an employee was closing the front seat lines— with trashcans. I edged over to the second row when I realized it had the same wait as the third.
With only three rides to go on my side (the left), we realized that our train wasn’t coming back to the station. Was it out at the launch or sitting in the brakes? For the third time, I heard that a ride was temporarily closed, maintenance is on the way, people not wishing to wait could leave the line, etc., etc. A few people left the line, but most decided to wait it out. Again, people start asking “how long is it going to be?” Figure it out, folks, they don’t know.
After a few minutes, they announced they’d be starting the ride again… but wait, those people who hopped in the train on the right side had to disembark so they could test. Another pause. Never mind, we’ll be loading this train. I guess, what the heck it’s almost closing time.
In the mean time, our train returned to the station with 20 very pale riders. What we figured out hearing them talk to the people loading the next train was that, not only did they wait out on the launch for about 10-15 minutes, they got absolutely no warning (no recorded spiel) when the train was about to launch… they just suddenly took off! Bet there were a few wet seats on that train.
With each train we see going over the top hat, those of us waiting breathe a sigh of relief. Soon enough, it’s our turn. Our launch goes off without a hitch, and it’s a great ride. Love the views of the lights below during the drops. The snake dive, or whatever it’s called, is my favorite inversion element on any coaster.
By this time, it was well past the scheduled 10 PM closing. I had two more stops to make—the kettle corn stand and the Chocolate House just outside the gate. I worried whether the stands would still be open since it was so late, what was I thinking? There was a pretty long line for kettle corn, and the 3 guys making it were really working. No doubt about it, the corn was fresh, as they were filling the bags just as people ordered it. It was also quite a chore trying to keep a bag of warm kettle corn separated from bags of chocolate in the shop.
Since HP pass holders get a 15% discount on just about all refreshments and merchandise in the park, I like to mentally compute what I’m saving. Of course, I’m probably spending more than I would otherwise. King size bars in the Chocolate House are only 85 cents to start with—35-45 cents less than what you’d pay in your local convenience store.
Recap— 7 coaster rides with 3 waits for suspended operations for different reasons, 1 flat ride, 1 bag of kettle corn, and 22 dollars worth of various chocolate for various people. Crazy trains, indeed.
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