Hersheypark in the Dark- 11/01/09

I hadn't made it to HPITD yet this year, so since this was the last day, I figured it was now or wait till next season. I actually went to a hockey game in Reading early in the afternoon, and figured I'd make the hour or so drive afterwards. Since I left the arena a little before 4, I got to drive towards Hershey facing directly into the setting sun. Given all the rain and clouds of the past week, I wasn't going to complain.

I got to the park just before 5, well I should say I got to the intersection of Hersheypark Drive and Park Road. Driving along Hersheypark Drive, I noticed lights were on in the stadium and dozens of buses in the parking lot. Looked like there was some sort of band competition or show tonight, and the bands were using the section of the parking lot closest to the stadium as a staging and practice area. That meant no parking close to the park entrance, and I'd be taking the tram. Luckily I found a parking spot only a few rows from the tram stop and hopped on the tram that was waiting there. I rushed to get there, but we ended up waiting another 10 minutes or so as people came in by dribs and drabs. I figure I could have walked to the entrance quicker. Oh well.

I had brought along a camera thinking I could get some pics, then return the camera to the car. But since I wasn't parked that close, I decided against it. And I didn't want to take the camera on any of the rides with inversions or risk getting it crushed by a restraint. So no pics of the Halloween decorations or night scenes.

After maneuvering past a family who decided to block the security check for a gab fest, I got into the gate just before 5:30. At that time, far more people were leaving than entering, so while there was a decent crowd, it wouldn't be wall to wall people. I decided to make the circuit starting in Comet Hollow. There were only a few people on the ramp of Comet, to I decided to head there first. I got the next to last row. Even though the brakes were on, the ride was still pretty good. Two trains were running, but stacking wasn't that bad at all. The usual problems with all the belts and bars didn't seem as bad as usual.

Next up was SDL, which was running only one train. I went right up to the platform, and only had a 2 train wait for the back seat. I was mildly amused at all the people who didn't know which was the front and back. The 6 year old who asked was cute, the 20-something guy who didn't know, not so much. This was a fun ride, and the usual jolt at the brakes wasn't there.

After that, I headed up the hil toward Great Bear. There was a band playing Halloween themed music in the amphitheatre across from the flume. Again, no line beyond the station. I figured I might need the big boy seat because I was wearing 3 layers, including a jacket. To my dismay, rows 4 and 5 were closed off, which is where the bigger seat is located. I decided to go for Row 8, since there were only 2 young guys waiting there. To my surprise, the restraint buckled with hardly any pushing down at all. I know a lot of people prefer the front row, but I love the way you get pulled through the elements in the back row. Night rides on Great Bear rock.

Next was the downhill and up toward Storm Runner. Actually, I hadn't noticed whether it was running, not that I was closely watching. While walking down the hill I heard the familiar noise of the launch and screams, so I figured it was running. Actually, it was half running, as they were only loading from the left side of the station. Even so, the line extended only to the bottom of the stairs. It took maybe 10 minutes to go across the bridge and down into the station. As usually happens, people congregate at the bottom of the steps or wait for the front row, so they don't notice that rows 2-4 have hardly anyone in them. I ducked into Row 3 with only two people ahead of me.

One funny thing was on the train before mine, in the last row was a kid dressed like a banana. I guess Hershey has no issues with people in costume. Even the crew on the platform had to stand and watch that train get launched. I saw this same kid after my ride. There was a little girl being carried by her father walking in front of me, and when she saw this kid, she pointed at him and started singing "Peanut Butter Jelly Time."

Anyway, my ride on SR was great. Made even better by the fact that I had no issue with headbanging (which I usually never do anyway), and didn't get hit in the face with a stray broken cable.

The short lines continued at Fahrenheit. The queues closest to the stairway were maybe 1/3 full. With two trains running pretty efficiently, the wait wasn't long at all. The guy ahead of me in Row 5 let me in front of him so he could ride the same time as his friends, so my wait was even shorter. The lift is still a bit unnerving, and I like the Norwegian Loop element. The cobra still has the rattle, and the bunny hop just before the brakes still catches people off guard after all the other elements.

In previous years, the trick or treating event was held in the area around Canyon River. Since that's gone, I wondered where they had it now. Turns out it's in the area of Tidal Force and Wildcat Catering. Doesn't seem like it's as much of a walk-through as it was before, but I guess as long as the kids get candy, they don't care. They'd probably prefer just getting it all in one shot anyway with as little walking as possible.

Wildcat was rough, but not uncomfortably so. I rode toward the front for the first time in awhile (2nd row), so I noticed the air you get at the top of all of the hills. They only had 2 rows closed off, and other than the first seat, the wait was minimal.

I took 3 laps on Lightning Racer; Lightning (row 10), Thunder (Row 3), and Lightning (Row 2). Lightning won each race, but all were surprising very close. If Lightning had lost the last time, I would have blamed it on the two girls behind me who screamed the whole time. I figured the wide open mouths would increase air resistance. There's also nothing like climbing the lift hill of LR with a view of a full moon.

After my third lap, I figured I was done and started heading toward the front of the park. It wasn't even 8:00, but of course it seemed later since it was the first night after turning clocks back, and it was pitch dark by 6:00. I hadn't eaten since I had an order of fries at the hockey game, so I was getting hungry. But when I got to Fahrenheit and saw the line was only into the 4th row, I couldn't pass up another ride. This time last row. There is a noticeable difference in the airtime on the 97 degree drop just from the 5th to 6th row. I guess that's why the last row is my favorite. Altogether, I got 10 coaster rides in just over 2 1/2 hours.

I decided to eat outside the park, but get some hot chocolate and kettle corn on the way out. The kettle corn line turned out to be the longest wait of the night. There were only 2 people working the stand instead of the usual 3 or 4. While one guy popped the corn and ran for more ingredients, the woman had to fill the bags and also run back to the register to take orders. And of course toward the end of the night, a lot of people have to stop for it on their way out of the park. That mix of salty and sweet is well worth the wait though.

While it was a cool night, temps were never an issue, and everything was running except for Sidewinder, which I didn't intend to ride anyway. I like my vertebrae where they are, thank you. So now I can say I rode coasters in in November in PA, and that will hold me over until opening day next year.

I can't believe they decided to close rows on Great Bear now. Especially since like you said the larger seat is in row 5 so someone who would need that seat would not be able to ride.

I have noticed the belts on Great Bear are longer than the belts on both Talon and Batman The Ride. I can buckle the belt on a regular seat on Great Bear without an issue but on Batman it isn't even close (I was able to ride with a op helping me which was the only time I rode the coaster this past season)

I don't think the seats on Batman are even as large as the others, never mind the belts.

I'm surprised that I've seen two reports now that Comet had a very short line. I just skipped it on the assumption that it had a terrible line as always. But if they're using the brakes again, I don't feel too bad about it.

The costumes surprised me too. I thought I had read somewhere that only kids were allowed in costume, but I saw some adults. Probably I'm thinking of Dorney since they have monsters.

On Friday, Oct 30 the coaster operations went like this:

Comet: 2 trains, little to no wait

sooperdooperlooper: 2 trains, little to no wait

Great Bear: 2 trains, Little to no wait, even for front

Trailblazer: 1 train, little or no wait

Storm Runner: 2 trains, short to no wait

Farenheit: 2 (at least) trains, short wait

Wildcat: 1 train, 25 minute wait

Wild Mouse: short wait

Lightning Racer: 1 train each side, 15 minute wait.

What surprised me was the fact that LR had longer waits than Comet. All of Midway America seemed busier than the rest of the park. Only thing I can think of is that families headed back that way for the kids candy in "Treatville" (or what ever it is called).

On Friday no trains had any seats blocked off. Good thing too... for only the 2nd time in my life I had to ride the "big boy" seats on Great Bear. Guess I have my work cut out for me to lose (at least) 20 pounds before Springtime in the Park.

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