Tuesday, July 17, 2001 1:52 AM
Ah, KennyKon. All the makings of a great day were in place. First and foremost, a day at Kennywood! I hadn't been to the park since May 12, which was probably the best day I had ever spent at an amusement park, even though both Thunderbolt and Phantom's Revenge hadn't yet opened for the season. Secondly, this would be my first ACE riding event. (I’d been to an ACE event before, though. CoasterBash! XII, in March.) I expected meeting a lot of people, and did. Good to finally put some faces to the names.
We (Joe Cernelli and myself) arrived at the park a bit past the 9:45 AM sign-in deadline, but luckily, we got in and everything with no problem at all. On the way down towards the tunnel, we spotted Greg Legowski and a friend of his whose name I didn’t catch. We met up with him again a few minutes later in line for Phantom’s Revenge. Just as soon as we got in line for the morning ERT, they opened the queue gates.
For my personal enjoyment, as well as for coverage on Kennywood Boulevard ( http://kennywood.coasterbuzz.com
), I watched the Phantom’s deconstruction and construction over the winter. The ride opened much later than could be hoped, and due to a bunch of different reasons, KennyKon was the first time I’d be in the park after it opened. Still, an hour of ERT ain’t a bad way to be introduced to a coaster, eh?
The wait, of course, wasn’t bad. The excitement in the station was great, with a few other first-time riders there besides myself, notably CoasterBuzz member loriu
, who Greg had met up with after breaking away from us for a quick singles ride. The coaster is still trim-less and barrels into the station, meaning one-train operation. I really wasn’t that bothered by it, since I was actually hoping to get a ride on it before the park slowed it down. Watching people leave the station, and a few minutes later, watching them come flying back with messed-up hair and grins from ear-to-ear really made the wait go faster. ;)
Before I knew it, I was stepping into the train. Finally, after months of growing anticipation, I was riding The Phantom’s Revenge. The lift is the same old thing, with one very nice difference, as Joe put it: “The view we’ve all been waiting 10 years for.” If you’re on the left, the whole of Kennywood sits below you, and on the right, take a look at Lost Kennywood’s wonderful scenery and landscaping.
I was expecting a great ride, but I got so much more than that. As we crested the lift, a quick memory of Steel Phantom flashed through my head. But not a moment later, the memory was gone as we made a quick turn right and swooped down towards the ground. The flat section was gone in a second, and the train ascended the second hill. I was honestly not expecting any airtime on this hill, because I felt absolutely none of the such on Steel Phantom. However, I was pleasantly surprised. A nice rise from your seat is felt just before you start the famous second drop…
Where you’re almost thrown from your seat. It’s really quite unexpected, especially on one’s first ride. I’ve heard they slightly increased the angle of descent on the second drop, and with the feeling I got going down it every ride, I’d believe it.
The drop is just as wonderful as I thought it would be, hands up all the way. One of the topics that came up all off-season about Phantom’s Revenge was the great idea of riding with hands all the way up while careening under Thunderbolt, and let me tell you, it’s an incredible feeling indeed.
The positive G’s at the bottom of the hill are pretty easily felt just before you fly into the high turnaround. I was expecting a moment to rest here, but the Phantom won’t allow that on his ride. Just as soon as you’re on top of the turnaround, you’re headed back into the valley. The train makes a quick
right-hand turn to head back under the Thunderbolt, and as the coaster heads over Turtle, wonderful airtime is felt.
From there, the train makes a strange turn around just before a powerful hop back under the long second drop. Just after that hop is a fantastic, powerful
bunny hop past the station. This one violently throws you out of your seat and keeps you there for what seems like hours. As soon as you’re back in your seat, you’re headed towards the double-down. Great airtime over the first half, until you’re slammed – hard – into the seat before the second part of the drop. After very low turnaround next to Exterminator and one more powerful airtime hill, the train flies into the brake run (and not seconds later, into the station) with a ton
of speed left in it.
What’s the best way to describe Phantom’s Revenge in one word? How about incredible? How about breathtaking? How about powerful? How about intense? Words can’t describe it, and that’s just how I felt after that first ride – speechless. I think Kennywood has a definite
winner on its hands, and it seems everyone else, enthusiasts and GP alike, agrees.
After one more ride on PR and a quick stop for the group photo, Joe and I moved along. It was still early, around 11:30. We took advantage of Thunderbolt’s still-short line. Further increasing my belief that PR’s second drop angle was increased, there’s now a piece of red padding that hangs from one of its supports. (Now, this made me wonder: How much different would hitting a piece of padding wrapped around a steel pole at 40 MPH be than hitting a padding-less steel pole at 40 MPH? Anyway…) It really is close. Some time this summer, I’ll have to take a ride in the absolute back seat, just to watch everyone on the right side hurl their hands down in a S:ROS fashion when they see that thing coming right for ‘em. ;)
We took one lap around the park, as Joe wanted to write down the ticket information for each ride. (Good information to have on a Kennywood website, eh?) After a walk-on ride on Pirate, we headed for Exterminator.
We just missed the Informal Take Over Time, and the line was fairly long, out to the queue entrance under the Plunge with the use of one row of queue. We ended up in front of a couple from New Jersey who had another young girl with them. Judging by her accent and the way she interacted with the older couple, I gathered she was a foreign exchange student or something like that. The woman noticed my CoasterBuzz shirt and asked me about the ride, since none of them had been on it before. I told her it’s full of surprises, but neglected to tell her about the spinning aspect. (I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? ;)) They hadn’t been on Phantom’s Revenge yet, but seemed to understand that it was old mixed with new. I gave them my recommendation. ;)
(While passing through the indoor queue, a guy in a Viper tank-top asked me if the CoasterBuzz shirts only came in yellow. I didn’t get a look at the guy’s name tag, but if you’re a member here, c’mon and show yourself!)
Another great ride on Exterminator. A different, yet very fun ride each time. I made a point to leave the station slowly to see the reaction of the Joisey people. All had huge smiles, and the woman I spoke to in particular was laughing uncontrollably. Apparently, they liked it too.
Lines really picked up from there on in. The park was at the busiest I’ve personally ever seen it. Later, when checking out the Pavilions, I saw that Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield and a family reunion were at the park as well as the ACErs. I didn’t check any of the pavilions other than those behind Old Mill, but I’d guess there was another picnic or group there too.
Later in the day, I had the pleasure (? ;)) of finally meeting Jeff Putz and his wife, Stephanie while they were in line for Jack Rabbit. He’d given me two big thumbs up in regards to Phantom’s Revenge during the morning ERT, and later agreed that it’s a fabulous ride.
We lounged around the park, which was filling more and more, until the 5:00 dinnertime. We weren’t all that hungry, so we just stopped in for a Coke and some more chatting with Greg, Jeff, and others.
We decided to wait in the lengthy line (wrapped around back to the station) for Jack Rabbit. I saw Dave Althoff, Jr., but only had time to say “Hello.” Too bad, but caught up with him during the nighttime Phantom ERT.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone into detail about Jack Rabbit, so I will here. Though it was rumored over the offseason that a computerized braking system would be installed, it hasn’t happened yet (though I later overheard in a conversation that it’ll happen soon, in the next few years I suppose). Ops still use the big hand wooden hand levers to move the trains in the station and let ‘em roll off to the rest of the ride.
When the train is released, it makes a slow, left-hand, 180º midway-level turnaround before dropping into a natural ravine. The coaster rises out of the ravine and heads into a tunnel, making another U-turn before dropping into the valley again. This time, when the coaster rises out of the valley, it hits a chain lift. A turnaround almost directly above the first turn out of the station leads down into the famous double-dip, which delivers incredible airtime which can certainly
be felt, since the only restraints are an immovable bar and a thin, loose leather strap. When the train goes over the double dip, everything goes silent for that split second. I agree with Jeff: “I swear that thing leaves the track.” Freaky, but good stuff! After one more turnaround, you’re back into the station.
After Jack Rabbit, we decided to try Phantom’s Revenge again. The sign at the entrance said there’d be an hour and fifteen minute wait, which was about right. While in line, I met “Magnum” Dan Haverlock for the first time. Since they only allow a few trainloads of people in the station at a time, we’d pass each other about every five minutes. Once, though, we were stopped right next to each other.
A small kid, I don’t know, about 8-10 years old, who had been crawling all over the handrails and everyone else the whole time decided to use me to hold himself up while I was talking with Dan. It was annoying, sure, but I didn’t really tell him to get off (‘cause I’m such a nice guy, you know? ;))…
But Dan did. “Dude, would you want somebody crawling all over you?” I did my best to keep from laughing, which I later did when the kid actually did get off me. Magnum Dan really tore the kid up! Good times.
Another fantastic ride on Phantom’s Revenge. It was my third ride, and also the best. I knew the nighttime ERT rides would be something else.
Just after exiting PR, I stopped and talked to Gary Baker. I mentioned the crowds, and he said the attendance was somewhere in the 18,000, I believe. Apparently, that’s quite a bit off the mark, which is somewhere in the 20,000’s. Still, though, the place was busy, indeed.
The rest of the evening, we just leisurely walked about the park, riding whatever we felt like. A lap or two on Racer, some more Jack Rabbit rides, a whirl on the Gran Prix (which, as I thought, was nothing compared to Knoebel’s Skooters ;)), and the obligatory drop on PittFall, which never fails to scare me.
As the sun went down and the lights came up, Joe started taking some nighttime pictures of the park for the site. While he was busy finding just the right picture, I took time just soaking up the atmosphere. I really got a chance to check out Lost Kennywood. The waters and fountains by Pittsburgh Plunge were just looking absolutely beautiful.
Soon enough, the park was clearing out and the specified time, 10:45, rolled around for the nighttime Exclusive Ride Time.
There was a choice to ride either Thunderbolt or Phantom’s Revenge, but pretty obviously, the bulk of the group chose the latter. There wasn’t a huge number of people at all, really. The longest we waited was two trains. (Exiting on the left is very
We saw Greg, Lori, and her husband again, who all opted to wait for the front seat. After our third ride, I bumped into John Peck and Dave Althoff again. A few seconds later, we saw Arrow Guy, and a few more seconds later, a maintenance man wearing a CoasterBuzz shirt underneath his work clothes came up when he spotted our shirts. As it turns out, it was Buzzer KPJB, and not only did he meet Buzzers Joe and myself, he met the rest of the group, Buzzer Rideman, Buzzer John Peck, and Buzzer Arrow Guy. A regular reunion! ;)
The fourth and final ride was spectacular. Everything was great, with airtime in all the right places. My seventh ride for the day, and thusly my seventh ride ever. I really can’t wait to ride it again. I don’t keep Top Ten lists or anything, but I just generally keep a short list of my favorites. Phantom’s Revenge lands at a solid #2 in my book, just below Millennium Force.
We walked on tired feet out of the obviously-closed park and back to the car, leaving at about 11:15. Thirteen hours total made it surely the longest day I’ve spent at a park this year, and possibly longer than Cedar Point in 2000.
It’s great that Kennywood is back in full-swing with all the coasters running. I mentioned that I hadn’t been at the park since May 12, and though it was (and actually, still is due to personal reasons) the best day I’ve ever spent at an amusement park, Kennywood was really missing its backbone, PR and T’Bolt. I can remember standing just outside the gift shop near the Kennyville stage, listening to Game 1 of the Penguins/Devils series from the radio within, and staring down at a darkened Thunderbolt and Phantom’s Revenge. It really seemed lifeless. Kinda sad, really. But once again, God’s in His Heaven and All’s Right With the Park, and I’ve got some great KennyKon memories to prove it.
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