Trip Report: Kings Island
July 22, 2007
"This is a different kind of upside down"
It the summer of different kinds of Kings Island visits. You may recall, in my last blog article, that the July 1 visit to Kings Island was the Mother/Son visit, today is the visit with my cousin who is about 7 years younger than me.
So anyway, my cousin drops by and picks me up around noon and after a stop off at Wendy's for a reasonably priced lunch, we arrived at the park shortly before 1. We dodged the $10 parking fee by using my parking pass, then I dissuaded Rick from parking in Gold Pass parking, and instead finding a good space in the north lot which usually results in better easy-in/easy-out parking. We go up to the front gate to learn Drop Zone is still closed, and Rick buys an admission ticket using a wonderful $20 off coupon I had. We then cleared both metal detection and the admission turnstile with little fuss and were soon heading to International Street.
Here is where I made the first tactical error of the day, I think we should have headed directly to Firehawk, but then Son of Beast had reopened after a years worth of downtime. So, it's one of those situations where you know its not going to be pleasant, but you have to find out for yourself.
We headed to Son of Beast. When we arrived at the ride, the line was backed up into the tunnel that goes underneath the service road. The good news was that none of the switchbacks on the other side of the tunnel were in use. Still about 40-45 minutes later we were climbing into a SOB train. As you might be aware, Son of Beat has new trains this year. Gone are those hideous Premier trains, and here are two Gerstlauer trains, believed to have come from Pavilion in Myrtle Beach. The Premier's were three bench trains, and the Gerstlauers are only two bench, which meant some station redesign was in order. You may recall in its short service life last year, they had taken the back cars off the Premier trains, reducing them from 18 rows to 15 rows. The Gerstaluer trains only have 12 rows, so yes capacity on this ride has been cut down by a third in two years. Overall they seemed to have done a good job in the station. They blocked of the last three queue lanes, which they had presumably done last year, then they also blocked off the very first queue lane, and two more somewhere in the middle. In some cases they added a rail on the line side and removed the gate so the area effectively became a crew member spot. or if that was not needed they again sealed it off on the line side, but left the queue gate in place, with its mechanism disconnected so it stays shut. I also noticed a good deal of the front seat line has been blocked off. Further station changes include welding an extension onto the lap bar release pistons, presumably so they line up with the release button on the bottoms of the new cars.
The new trains appear to be Gerstlauer bodies, but the bogies are modified. This is most noticeable if you look at the large wheels and axles,so big they don't fit into the axle cut outs in the car boides, so obviously the trains have been somewhat modified to fit SOB's track and to allow for the larger wheels needed for the speed this ride has. As luck would have it we got the blue train, they have a blue train and a red train, both with SoB logos on the fronts) I have heard the red train performs better than the blue train. It also probably didn't help that we were in row 6 (car 3, row 2) and I have since heard the ride runs worse in the middle of the train. Anyway the seating compartments are regular Gerstlauer, with no padding, no headrests, no seat dividers, and the usual Gerstlauer lap bar (the model with the flat iron on the outside) The park has added seat belts, they are orange, individual, manually adjusted belts. This differs from the parks trend of using retractable automatically adjusting belts on their other rides. The good news for larger riders, is that they may now be able to ride Son of Beast. I hear those Premier trains were BAD on taller riders. The belts are plenty long enough, however they aren't as long as they appear, as a big loop has been sewn into the end of the belt, making it easier for the operator to tighten it.
The train departs the station, and the track layout up until the mid course brake appears to be the same as it was. The drop out of the station, the lift approach, the on ride camera on the bottom of the lift hill, the tall lift (218'), and let me tell you, if you thought the Premier trains were loud cresting the lift, you haven't heard anything yet, the Gerstlauer trains are deafeningly LOUD cresting the lift. We go down the first drop, and up hill 2, and then into the Rose Bowl helix. That's where the ride continues to go to heck. The train still shuffles like mad going through the Rose Bowl and yeouch that is not pleasant at all. The ride may be trying to take the unlicensed chiropractor title away from Mean Streak. We hit the mid course, which is slowing the trains down to a crawl. In the newspaper articles, Cedar Fair talked about adding new brakes, but tightening up the mid course brake is the only braking change I discerned.
So now you go down the drop out of the mid course, but without the built up momentum you had with version 1 of the ride. Of course the big news is at the bottom of this drop, the vertical loop is, as you probably know, gone. New trackwork has replaced the loop, but don't get two excited, all the trackwork manages to do is nudge the train over so it will be lined up with the second helix track. The new track seems to start partway down the drop, into a straight track then most of the way up into helix two. The new trackwork features a tiny hill in the middle of it which looks as if it should deliver a pop of air, but only generates a floater. Since they have replaced so much track, there are no sharp curves in this very elongated S curve, instead they seamed to have found the two most shallow angles they could use to get the job done. It may be an entirely dull piece of trackwork but it does allow for some smooth riding before yuo hit the helix and the various curves following the helix which allow the train to shuffle like crazy again. I was greatly relieved to be going down the final dip before the rise back up into the final brakes. I fail to see any improvement in this ride. Rick was somewhat more animated in his dislike over the ride.
After riding Son of Beast, we had to follow what has become something akin to the Kennywood Rule. (At Kennywood, a Jack Rabbit ride mustbe followed by a Racer ride) The local variant is that a Son of Beast ride must be followed by a Top Gun ride. I guess you could to it the other way, but then you have to walk all the way UP the Top Gun Exit ramp, just to turn around and walk back DOWN the Son of Beast entrance lane, that is part of the Top Gun exit ramp. Of course we saw that others solve this problem by jumping the rail at the bottom of the ramp.
Top Gun, as you might expect, was a walk on. It's now well into Cedar Fair's watch as park operators, and the Top Gun theming situation has not improved at all, but then it fell apart during Paramount's watch so I guess I can't really pin blame on Cedar Fair. We get to the station and take a ride in the back seat. What I noticed is that people were arriving at the Top Gun station just about at the same pace as people were leaving the Top Gun station after riding. In other words, a near perfect situation capacity wise, as it looked like the trains were going out either full or pretty full. Top Gun's problem is that it is too short, because for what is there it is a wonderfully intense little ride, aided greatly by the visuals that Son of Beast provides. We exited Top Gun and make the long climb up the Top Gun exit ramp, and then into Action Zone plaza.
We took a look around. Drop Zone was closed as was posted out front, and we weren't in a water ride mood. (Recall it was still in the 70's this was before the summer heat wave took hold) This left Delirum and Face/Off in Action Zone, neither of which Rick cares for. Rick did, however say that he wanted to watch Twisting to the 60's so, I rode the Action Zone rides while he caught the show.
I started with Face/Off, which had a queue that was not quite backed up into the queue house. It also had something strange going on up in the station, it seems like people were only going into the station one trainload at a time. This was without a ride operator there to enforce this. Weird, but it amounted to me getting an end seat on the end closest to the midway in just about 10 minutes, being paired with another single rider. Face/Off is still a wonderfully intense ride, with the sole problem that it is low capacity.
From Face/Off, I headed to Delirium. While waiting in line for Delirum, I got to see another downside to the various virtual queue programs. It's been said that fights have occured at some parks over the virtual queue programs, but in this case I could see where the virtual queue line members may be trying to provoke one. We had a group of people with Fast Lane tickets while waiting to be admitted turned to the queue house (only 1 of three switchbacks in use) and loudly taunt them "We have Speed Lane and you don't" Delirium should have been a 15 minute wait, but we had to wait a bit for them to handle the remnants of a rider that just couldn't contain themselves. (Get the garden hose!) Delirium is one of the parks better ride installs, being a Giant Frisbee. I had a great ride in Seat 49 which seemed to always be at the top of the peaks looking down on each swing. After my Delirium ride, I purchased a Strawberry/Banana Chill which I consumed whil e taking a shortcut through the Festhaus to look at the new Panda Express installation before meeting up with Rick in front of Starbucks. We both headed to Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle.
Scooby Doo's line was contained in its indoor queue area, with 1 switchback closed. In fact I had just enough time to finish my Chill before going through the secret passage. I got into the car first and Rick followed. You know the drill, shoot at lit targets, hit boxes of Scooby Snacks, score points. By the time the ride ended, I had smoked Rick by a margin of about 1,000 points. Rick used the tried and true excuse of Scooby ride losers everywhere. "My gun didn't work right" From Scooby I took Rick on a walking tour of the new Nick Universe as he had not seen it since the Hanna Barbera Land days. We also failed to ride both Fairly Odd Coaster and Reptar. Reptar had a half full queue and owing to the slow loading practices and single train operation, I know thats a painfully slow wait. We headed into Rivertown and I showed Rick the "Evil Elephant" of Wild Thornberries, and then we proceeded to just walk through Rivertown before ending up at the Beast.
The Beast line was backed up into queue house 1 (the bottom one), with no switchbacks open anywhere along the way. The line was, in fact, a lot shorter than it appeared as one of the two lanes on the ramp up to the station was blocked off for Gold Pass speed lane. We soon made our way up to the station. When the dust cleared in the station, we were riding in row 3 after a very short wait. Beast has been exhibiting Jeckyl and Hyde disease this year, where sometimes you get a great ride, and sometimes you get an especially rough ride. Today, it seems that we drew the Hyde straw and were awarded with a very rough Beast ride. Rick is a big fan of the Beast, and he was having his doubts.
After the Beast, we took a little break. Rick wanted to try out the Barrel of Fun (foot massage chairs "Footsie-Wootsie" machines) in the Beast plaza. He dropped in his quarter and seemed to like it, so I sat down in the next one and dropped in a quarter. Powerful motor those things have as not only does the metal plate massage your feet but you also get a good butt message as well. In fact I think everything in a mile radius of the thing starts vibrating. I can't explain it but your feet really do feel good after getting the Footsie-Wootsie treatment.
We next headed down the hill to the Bowler Roller game. Rick poured a couple bucks into that game and waked away empty handed , I drop in a quarter and walk away with a small prize. Or I should have walked away with a small prize, I blew another dollar trying to get a second win to upgrade to the medium prize.
We walked past Italian Job, which had a line backed into the queue house and into the switchbacks, then we came across three point challenge. Now it is true Rick played high school ball, it is also true that this was 12 years ago. I still managed to goad him into it. "How is your three point game" Not that it took much goading as Rick is the player parks dream of, the guy who thinks he can do anything. They had it marked down to $5 today from a posted price of $10, and at any one time I saw about 8-10 people standing in line to play. So lets say 45 seconds per player (40 seconds for the game and 5 seconds between players) they could reasonably move 80 players through that game an hour, at $5 per is $400 per hour. ($800 per hour at $10 per). "License To Print" money, and as for Rick's game, chalk that up to walking away empty handed.
We come across Shake, Rattle and Roll, which was one of Rick's favorite rides growing up, but sometime about 10 years ago he lost his ability to ride spin rides without, messy results, and he claims that he gets queasy going upside down. Bear this in mind as you continue reading. So we skipped Shake Rattle and Roll and proceeded to Vortex.
Vortex line was just over the bridge so, for not much of a wait at all, and we head towards the front of the train. 2.5 minutes later I am thinking what a great Vortex ride we had, and Rick wassaying how he hates going upside down. I do think they have tightened up the mid course on Vortex as it was running so well earlier this season.
After Vortex, we headed to the Action FX Theater, the only option today was Spongebob Squarepants (in 3D) and that was only being shown on one screen. Not that it much mattered, as the ride was a walk on, and they couldn't fill the auditorium anyway. I noted that all the theming in the preshow area between the two theaters has been removed, including the turntables. I also noted the glare is so bad on the pre show televisions, you can't really see the pre show. And it is also true that this ride is about the extent of my Spongebob knowledge, but he seems to be an excitable little guy. So we get our 3D glasses and head into the theater. Inside, yes the usual movie about Spongebob working at the Krusty Krab, the last pickle in the jar slipping away from him, and in a move that would make Health Departments cringe, he runs after the pickle through the town, and after he finally retrieves it (nearly getting killed in the process) he proceeds to put it on a sandwhich he has taken away from the sterile kitchen environment, and serves it to a customer that had made his pickle allergy known. It's a silly story with a great punchline. We leave the theter dropping the 3D glasses into the yellow mesh bags. I note they are still attempting to run some sort of arcade in the theater exit area.
We then head down Coney Mall, and our next stop is Firehawk, but wait there used to be two sets of flagpoles from the flags of the states where you could visit a Paramount park, this year Cedar Fair replaced one set of flags with generic yellow and purple flags, and the other set of poles sat disused. Well now the poles themselves have disappeared, you can see metal plates on the ground where the poles were rooted into the ground.
We get back into X-Base, and get to Firehawk to learn the ride is currently closed, but should reopen later. I knew we should have come here when we first arrived. Oh well, we go to right Flight of Fear since we are in the area. The line is back to the greeters station, but I ask and learn it is going through the indoor queues the short way. By the time we enter the hangar building they have opened some of the outdoor switchbacks. We enter the hangar and it is going the short way, just as advertised, and the preshow video was running. I had thought they had given up on that for the year. So it took about half an hour or so, and we were sitting down in the back seat of a middle car. As soon as I sat down a ride operator was there, so I dropped the lap bar and she fastened the belt with no trouble. Very soon thereafter it was WHAM and launched into the hangar. Now if only we could lose this mid course brake. As we boarded the train I noted the camera equipment for the on ride video system the ride is going to be getting, but upon exiting the ride that booth is still closed.
So, next he head over to Firehawk, get a locker, and yes the ride is open, and is running both stations/trains. We enter the line which is through 2 switchbacks. One bad thing about Firehawk is that you can see the entire ride from the waiting area. Rick (who had just ridden Vortex and Flight of Fear mind you) says "You know I don't like going upside down". I respond "This is a different kind of upside down" Rick responds (in mocking voice "A DIFFERENT kind of upside down, huh" "When this rides over, your dead" I remind Rick that he wasn't too thrilled about riding Extreme Skyflyer on our last visit to the park, and all that but he wound up liking it. Maybe 30 minutes later and I was being directed to use the left hand lane to exit the queue maze. All my other rides on Firehawk, I was sent down the right lane. The left lane goes down a flight of stairs, goes under the track (yes there is some sort of fabric guard between you and the track) then back up a flight of stairs into the station. They were assigning seats, s we went to our assigned row, a middle of the train row. We got into the seat queue just in time to see the train in front of us lower down to the ride position. Followed by a rider in said train going into a full-on panic attack as soon as the chairs tipped back to the ride position. I can also say the Firehawk crew is to be commended for the professional manner in which they handled the situation.
So we get loaded onto the next train, get seated, train lowers down and we are out on the course. Close your eyes while going up the lift hill. Then I admit I was eager to hear Rick's reaction to his first Lie-To-Fly element. At first the sounds coming from the rider next to me weren't encoruaging. We do the station fly over, the vertical-loop-on-your-back, the barrel rolls, and the helix. By the end of the ride he was loving it. As we walked up the exit ramp he indicated he would like to try that again at night. See, I told him so, would I steer a person wrong?
Having conquered X Base, we reclaimed our lose articles and headed to Racer. Rick only likes forward so we took one quick lap on forward toward the front of the train. Walk on as you might expect. I can tell there is a great coaster here wanting to be let out. We follow that up with a walk on ride on Adventure Express (row 3). They seem to be working on getting the effects running. Now if they would only get the big boss figure at the top of the lift to be visible, I think they would have almost the complete package.
Having now made a lap of the park, I determined that Rick was not interested in Slingshot. so we started filling in the holes we missed. We headed back to Italian Job. We had just entered the Italian Job queue when the ride operator was walking back the line saying "I need two", she repeated this like 2 or 3 more times and got no reaction from the crowd. Rick piped up that we were a group of two, and to my big shock she took us. We were allowed to enter via the Speed Lane entrance and were expressed right to the station. When we got to the station, the crew had already send the train out that was light two riders, so she put us in Row 1 for the next train out. Man, I can get used to this VIP Treatment. It helps that Row 1 is the only row in the whole train that has significant airtime. That all made this a better than average ride on Italian Job. Sure the special effects on it are going downhill, but at its root its a fun little ride.
We then paused to watch some more suckers try their hand at Three Point Challenge, before heading to Tomb Raider the Ride. Recall Rick was the one who said he doesn't like spinning or going upside down, yet Tomb Raider was his idea. Yes, he had ridden Tomb Raider before.
The line was just backed out of the cave when we joined. However, due to the way they were operating it, it was only a 1 cycle wait. It seems that for all this season and part of last season, they have not been using the Monkey Room or ante chamber, sending you from the queue straight through the ante room into the preshow room. That also means you no longer have the music cue and the light show as the light pattern aligns itself to the pattern on the secret door, while the music builds, and finally the door opens while foggers mask your sight into the preshow room. Today they admitted the first group from the queue into the pre show room, then there was a pause, then the second group was admitted, then a pause, then all the house lights came on. Suddenly it was very bright in the normally very dark queue area. I was half expecting them to announce a delay or that the ride was closed, but with the work lights on, the third group, including us, was admitted directly to the pre show room. As soon as we had arrived in the pre show room, the door between us and the main ride chamber opened up, so we wound up going directly into the ride without the benefit of the preshow. Last time I had ridden this, the main show audio was off, and I was thinking, can they make this suck any worse.
So we put loose items in the pouch and prepared to ride. Soon the ride was loaded, and the lights resumed to normal, and I could hear the tribal drums beating. Whats more important was when the ride cycle started and the ride audio was PLAYING. In fact the ride performed as designed with the first two gondola stops, and was running maybe the best it has this year until we got to the ice stalactites scene. At this point the work lights came back on, yet the ride audio still kept playing, and the ride continued to run its cycle. This really became noticeable when we were heading into the lava pit scene, and the big concrete pad under the ride could be seen. Also during the flips I could see a shower of loose articles raining down. How many times must we warn people. There was no special lava pit lighting, so it looked like we were just looking at a regular fountain jet which was pathetically bubbling. So much for the lava pit scene. The ride completed its cycle with the lights on, and I noticed the big blast of fog at the end of the ride was missing. Maybe they will get it all put back together and working right someday, but I have my doubts.
Rick claimed Tomb Raider did a number on his stomach, and needed to relax for awhile, so we took a ride on the Kings Island and Miami Valley railroad. Sadly the animations and set pieces have not seen any rehab. In fact, unless I wasn't paying attention it seems the background music on the train was missing as well.
After the train ride, we headed back up into Coney, and proceeded to take part in a family tradition, that of spending the last hour or so playing the midway games in Coney. I also noticed that there are very few video games left in the arcade, in fact most of the arcade games these days are redemption machines that would not look out of place in a casino. I mean how many variations can we have on "Drop the coin at just the right time for it to hit a rapidly moving target in the right place" or "Stop the light at the right time" Then there is Colorama which is Roulette. Except the casino might pay something closer to true odds, rathat than giving you maybe $1 or $2 in prize tickets for being lucky enough to time your coin to roll across the bridge when the drawbridge is down, which sets the bonus ball into play which rolls down a habitrail onto a spinning turntable, then hope it ultimately decided to land in the Jackpot hole on the turntable. All in all we had some fun, and around 9:10 or so we headed back to Firehawk. We propbably should have went and taken that night ride on Beast first (tactical error #2) and gotten back just in time to be some of the last people in line for Firehawk. But instead we entered the Firehawk queue, and the queue house was almost all the way through the switchbacks. Rick and I took the time to have a good cousin to cousin chat which really helped the time fly, and before we knew it we were being sent down the right lane, the one that stays level with no stairs to the staion house, and the seat assigner sent us to the back row. As the seats were train was being loaded I heard the first firework go off. I thought they don't run rides during fireworks, well they did, and we had the unique pleasure of watching a good part of the fireworks show while going up the Firehawk lift, which is situated ideally for that purpose, the fireworks continued during our ride, and we got the the exit ramp just in time to see the finale.
What a great way to end the evening. So we headed to the front of the park, returned to our car, and yes, that parking spot we picked out was very easy out through the north exit. We then had breakfast at Waffle House before heading home.
Next up: KIC: The Event - at Kings Island - 080407.
Watch for it,
They are fun and informative. Detailed, yet do not ramble on. Lengthy, yet a quick read. Most importantly, you almost always cover every aspect of a park from individual rides, to food stands, shows, parking, staff, etc. You aren't by chance a professional journalist?
Again, excellent work and keep them coming! *** Edited 8/13/2007 6:57:54 PM UTC by Emiroo***
No, I am not a professional journalist, but several people have told me I have the writer's knack and should think about taking up journalism or Public Relations.
Anyway, for the full collection of my trip reports, you can check out my TR Page:
It should be out by the end of the week, when it does, rest assured I will send a copy to the KIC TR forum.
As for The Beast, I got 10 laps and yes, Jeckyll and Hyde, but mostly based on what seat I was in. I really liked car 6 seat 1. Any time I was in the back of any car, it was very much different, and less enjoyable. But I parked myself in 6-1 for several laps and ended the day with a pitc-black Beast nightride, coaster bliss.
And yes, you have very well written reports.
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