Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginia, USA
I unfortunately had to leave my wife home since she's pregnant and can't ride anything, so I recruited my friend Jason who was terribly upset to have to take a day off work, and we headed to Kings Dominion for the day. We arrived shortly after 10am and headed straight for Intimidator305, which looked to have a long line, but only ended up being about a 40 minute wait. We missed getting a free T-shirt and have it autographed by Dale, Jr., which would have been cool, but no big deal since that shirt would probably have collected dust in my clothes drawer for eternity.
I was a bit annoyed to find they were assigning seats (I assume they will continue to do this for the rest of the season, much like Cedar Point did with Millennium Force). We were sent to row 7. The first thing that blew my mind was how crazy fast the lift was. I was told MF's lift is 12mph, whereas I305's is 18mph. Not sure if that's fact, but I'd guessed it had to be around 20mph, so it seemed reasonable. The ride itself was nothing short of awesome. More on this later.
Next we headed for Flight of Fear, but it was temporarily down. We never did get on it; the line was longer than I'd seen it in years when it did reopen (thanks presumably to its proximity to I305). We also headed over to Volcano, but again, the line was far too long so we passed.
We wandered the park a bit and ended up in line for Ricochet, because Jason had never ridden it. It was more fun than I remembered. The trims were on fairly hard as usual, but the layout is unique enough to keep things interesting. The drops are fun, too. I can only imagine how good a trimless ride would be.
Next was Grizzly, one of my favorite woodies. A backseat ride proved Grizzly is not aging well. I don't mind rough, but there was some jackhammering going on that I'd never felt before. We elected not to ride this again for the rest of the day. Ow.
Before lunch we decided to get a ride on Dominator. Jason loves this ride. The line was long, and despite two-train operation, it moved pretty slowly. Close to an hour later we were at the top of the stairs and about to turn into the station when one of the trains stopped midway up the lift. We waited for 5 or 10 minutes, then decided the requirement for sustenance trumped our desire to wait out the breakdown.
Pizza for lunch. It was ok. I was surprised to see pepperoni slices priced equally to cheese. Hm.
While at Victoria Pizza, I stared out the huge rear window and marveled at the sight of Back Lot Stunt Coaster and the Tornado water slide in the foreground, and Volcano, Flight of Fear, Anaconda, I305, the rest of Waterworks, and Rebel Yell in the background. I reminisced of a time when all I could see out that window was an unobscured Rebel Yell and King Kobra...and their reflections in the giant Lake Charles.
After lunch we wanted to hit Intimidator again. The line was even shorter than it was that morning, and when we approached the station I asked the girl assigning rows what the chances of us getting a front seat ride would be. She checked the station and then said, 'I can do row 3 for ya.' I shrugged and headed for row 3. Then, I saw that the two people who were right behind us ended up in row 1. I was irritated by this, and a few ride cycles later as the lines for each car shortened, we scooted into row 1. No one cared. No one even noticed, except for the couple who were originally right behind us and were now right in front of us. 'Good move,' the guy said. Indeed it was. Because, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was about to ride the best damn steel coaster this side of the asteroid belt.
I've always preferred the front seat on most coasters. I never expected the front seat of this one to be so drastically better than...well, row 7 at least. My ride improved ten-fold. It was stellar, beginning with the best first drop in existence (enhanced by the lift speed, which gives you zero time to prepare for it). I've heard it mentioned that if Millennium Force and Maverick reproduced, I305 would be the result. I can't compare it to Maverick since my last visit to Cedar Point was the Force's opening year, but both Jason and I noticed some significant similarities to El Toro. It's relentless. The turns are snappy, but not painful. And, I might add, the shoulder restraints don't detract from the ride. I'd prefer they weren't there of course, but as OTSRs go, they're absolutely fine. I bumped my neck a bit on the second-to-last turn on my first ride, but didn't come in contact with them at all the second time around.
Also, interestingly, I greyed out on the first turn only in the front seat. I'm guessing I didn't on my first ride because it was my first ride of the day, or because I tensed my legs up (thanks for the tip, Jeff)...or maybe both. I forgot to tense up on the second ride (I was focused on the surreal angle of that first drop), but still, the grey-out wasn't nearly as harsh as I experienced in Titan's helix. By the time you're getting thrown in your restraint at the top of hill #2, all is well again. And wow, the airtime--I suspect there's plenty of floater air in the back of the train, although I don't know--but that hill almost rivals El Toro's ejector air in the front.
There is that trim brake just before the first bunny hill. For me, it allowed some nice floating air over those hills, but more importantly it allowed the train to navigate that crazy S-turn (as well as the nearly-90 degree transition into the final brakes) at a more humanly tolerable pace. And it actually allowed me to breathe again after careening around the course at seemingly triple-digit speeds.
Afterwards, we took it easy for a bit. We walked through Treasure Cave (formerly Yogi's Cave, years ago), one of my favorite attractions when I was a kid. We also rode Boo Blasters on Boo Hill (re-themed Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Mansion), which, despite the bare outdoor queue that once had nicely-done Scooby and the gang theming, was surprisingly well done inside. The ride even had a couple cool effects that weren't there before. Then we hit the Eiffel Tower to take in some nice views and pictures of the park and I305.
Up next was another shot at Dominator, which was running again, and this time the line was quite a bit shorter. A front seat ride in the late afternoon heat, coupled with my body's growing intolerance for the plethora of G-forces and adrenaline rushes endured in a typical day at a theme park, warranted some Advil and a temporary rest from the thrills. We grabbed a snack at Chick-Fil-A and relaxed in the shade for a bit. Finally, we decided one more ride on Intimidator would end the day nicely. The line didn't look much longer than our second encounter, however we quickly noticed only one train was running. Then, as we were about halfway through the queue, it broke. It was about 7:15 I think, and the park closed at 8. We stuck it out over the next half-hour as people left the line in droves, and ultimately decided it would be better to ride something than stay in I305's queue and chance not riding it or anything else. We never did find out if it reopened.
We headed to Flight of Fear, but once again, the line was eternal. Then Volcano, which didn't look too bad until we were in line for several minutes before noticing only one train was running. We finally got our front seat ride at about 9:15 (yep, over an hour after the park closed), and it was one of the best rides I've ever had on Volcano, for the stupid fact that I wore my sunglasses because I had nowhere else to put them. Made for the scariest launch ever--I could barely see a thing. What a great way to end the night.
Opening Day blues :: I'd love to say the first day of the season ran butter-smooth, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. Here are some things that negatively affected our day--nothing show-stopping by any means, just minor snags that will hopefully smooth out over the next few operating days:
- Hurler was closed (possible retracking--it looked as if the first drop was missing its steel rails, though it was hard to tell).
- Shenandoah Log Flume was closed all day.
- Several lengthy breakdowns observed (I305, Dominator, Flight of Fear, The Crypt)
- All ATMs were out of order, but they didn't have signs indicating this until late in the day.
- Slow crews on some of the coasters (Dominator especially--two train operation and stacking occurred regularly).
- One train operation on I305 and Volcano late in the day. I don't know if I305's second train had a mechanical issue, and I'm not sure if Volcano had run more than one train all day.
- Action Theater was closed either all day or just temporarily. I'm not even sure what's playing this year; I only saw it from the Eiffel Tower.
Good stuff :: There were definitely some positive things of note:
- Intimidator's crew, even with one-train operation late in the day, was exceptional. Without a doubt it was the shortest wait of any coaster we rode.
- New paint: Volcano is nearly complete; most of the track and about half of the supports have been repainted and look great. Anaconda was started (the brake run is bright orange again), but I don't think it will be completed this year.
- The Nickelodeon section was decently rethemed to Planet Snoopy, complete with a new Peanuts show, character meet-and-greet, Flying Ace (flat ride) and Snoopy's Splash Dance (water play area).
- Back Lot Stunt Coaster's de-badged and de-themed Mini Coopers looked great with a fresh coat of paint; all three cars are now the same color, though I believe the three trains are all different colors (I only saw the red one).
- They've done a very nice job filling in the area left vacant by Hypersonic's removal with game stands and planters. Last year there was a vast sea of pavement between Americana and El Dorado, the two new rides from Geauga.
- Intimidator305 is brilliant. But you knew that. :)
I have to agree with pretty much everything you said.
We were also in line for Intimidator near the end of the evening when it was down. We decided to stick it out and boy were we glad we did! I don't remember what time exactly but I'm pretty sure the ride re-opened with two trains at around 8:15ish. By the time we rode there was no daylight at all which made our back seat ride incredible. The ride isn't really lit at all and I hope it stays that way because we couldn't see anything. That was definitely one of the most incredible rides of any coaster I have ever been on. And that wouldn't have happened if it had not of been down for a while.
We also had a similar experience with Intimidator's crowd control. Two members of my group wanted to ride in the front and so they asked the crowd person who said that they could not load anymore people in the front row line at that time. We were assigned somewhere in the middle and then the group behind us was somehow able to wait for the front row.
Overall, we didn't ride much because almost everything was running one train and we didn't want to wait. We started to wait for Volcano at some point in the afternoon. About a half hour later we had hardly moved at all so we bailed. We found it odd that our shortest waits for the day were for Intimidator. We all felt that the park really wasn't ready to open with not only the ride situation but how long it took us to find some food because nearly every food location we found was closed.
Sounds like Cedar Fair is taking some pointers from Six Flags. Now all they have to do is install Q-Bot, and they can make some big cash! ;)
Seriously though, why was KD running only one train on most coasters and why did they have many closed food stands? Opening day with a new record-breaking coaster; they knew that the park would be packed.
BTW Dale Jr. was not there for the opening. It was Kerry Earnhardt and his sister. If Jr was there the crowd would have been double.
Thanks...Gotta stop believing crap I hear while waiting in line.
Kerry was signing autographs and first rider shirts in the on-ride photo building for about 20 min at 10:15.
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