Sunday was the first time I had been to PKI in more than two years. Last year, around September, I realized I had not been to PKI a single time, but at that point, my vacation days were gone, my weekends were booked and I couldn't squeeze in a trip. So 2004 became the first year since 1988, and possibly before, that I didn't go to PKI.
So it was like seeing an old friend after a long time when I went back there on Sunday. I was hoping for small crowds but wasn't that worried, since my wife, Rachel, and I would be going with our friends Srini and Lisa, probably the most easy-going couple of all time. So if we didn't get to ride this or that, it was no big deal.
They met us at my parent's house in Sabina, where Rachel and I had spent the night, and we left from there and arrived at Exit 25 at around 12:30 p.m. We stopped at Wendy's in Mason for a quick bite, then entered the parking lot.
Any time I have a choice of lines (like at a grocery store), I always pick the slowest one. It's like a curse. If I second-guess myself and change lines, the line I left will begin moving quickly. Well, in the parking lot, I picked the slowest line ever. It took 10 minutes for four cars to get through our gate, thanks to a slow attendant and then the decision to change attendants and switch out the cash boxes when we were next in line.
To make up for time, and since we planned to visit Coconut Bay, or whatever it's called, we opted for the Preferred Parking, which Srini paid for (since admission was free thanks to my status as a member of the Fourth Estate). I think it's worth the extra $6. It's so nice to only walk a short distance when you're dead tired after a long day.
We passed through the metal detectors, which failed to beep despite me carrying my keys and a ton of change. I stopped at Guest Services for my media tickets, and also asked about line tickets for Italian Job. The person there said the line tickets were in use that day, so we decided to head back there first.
I was very impressed by the look of IJSC from the outside. The theming looked cool, the layout looked like a lot of fun, and the flame spurts were impressive. But when we got to the entrance, the ride was down. I asked the attendant about line tickets, and she had no idea what I was talking about.
We headed around to the Beast, which was also closed down. I forgot to mention, while I was at Guest Services, I heard some man screaming at the poor girl there, saying that no good rides were open, no shows were available, he wanted his money back, etc. What a jerk.
So we got in line for Tomb Raider. Srini and Lisa neither one had been to Kings Island since the 1980s, so I refused to tell them anything about the ride and let them be surprised. The wait was about 45 minutes. I really like this ride, but it feels like it needs something else at the end. The carriage slowly lowers to the ground, the unintelligible voice says something, some smoke spews out, and then it's over. I think after the smoke spews out, one more really fast flip would leave people with a better reaction. I mean, the best thing about a Top Spin are those high-G-force flips, but this program focuses more on the rotation of the arms, not the seats themselves.
Anyway, I think it's a great ride, but there's a lot of potential to change the show around and make it a lot better. Srini and Lisa liked it a lot.
We left TRTR and met back up with Rachel, whom I advised not to ride because of the hanging-upside-down part, which she doesn't like. We walked over to the Beast again, which was running; however, they were putting another train on, so there would be "two minutes" of downtime, according to the line attendant. It turned out to be more like 20 minutes, but eventually the line got going, and we waited only about 10 minutes after three-train operation started.
I have been disappointed in the Beast the past few years, but Sunday, it was TEARING UP THE TRACKS. I can't remember the last time I felt the Beast going so fast in the daylight. It ripped around that last sharp corner before the lift so fast, everyone screamed. The helix was as intense as ever. We all agreed it's an awesome ride, and my faith in the Beast has returned. I'd just like to ride it once, though, without those pinch brakes in the straightaway (I didn't feel any breaks before the helix this time).
Srini had to use the restroom (NOT to pee), so while he and the girls did that, I looked around the Beast arcade. Had I known Srini was going to be 15 minutes in the restroom, I would have played a game of DDR, but I didn't play anything this time.
Once he had dropped his load, we went back to Italian Job, which was now open. We asked how long the wait was, expecting to hear "four hours," and were pleasently surprised when we were told 30 minutes. So we got in line.
SIDEBAR: What is it about amusement parks that makes people think wearing crude shirts is funny? I saw at least a dozen vulgar shirts throughout the day... and while I'm no prude, they weren't even clever or funny. While waiting for Italian Job, we saw a guy wearing a shirt with two rhinos on it, and it said, "Save my horny friend." Another guy's shirt said, "Aberpucker and Fud," apparently some sort of parody of Abercrombie and Fitch. OK, so I reverse the letters and it spells some swear words. How is that funny?? And how is it relevant to Abercrombie and Fitch? It just makes no sense. I never see these kinds of shirts anywhere else except for amusement parks.
I was suprised to see only one maze of speed rails in the IJ queue, but after it took us about 10 minutes to get through one row of them, we realized we'd be waiting a lot longer than 30 minutes. It turned out to be around an hour, but that's still not so bad, I hear.
Rachel and I were luckily assigned to row 1 for our first ride. The launch into the spiral is pretty intense, I thought, and I love all the little changes of direction and the banked turn. I even felt a nice pop of air - the first new pop of air on a coaster at PKI since Vortex was built in 1987, I believe. :) I really like the "break" in the middle of the ride, and I was surprised that you could feel the heat of the fire. The dive into the tunnel was the best part for me, and it felt like there were several dives and turns in there, though I can't be sure. I didn't see any oncoming headlights like I thought there would be. In fact, I don't even remember going down any "stairs" or going through any "fishtails," so I have no idea if those effects were working. I didn't hear any radio playing either. But despite all that, I (and everyone I was with) thoroughly enjoyed IJ. I think it's an awesome addition to the park.
As we left the line, I suggested to everyone that we skip Vortex, since it was already getting on in the day, and we wanted to spend some time at the water park before it closed at 8 p.m.
So we headed straight for Flight of Fear, still my favorite ride at the park. We were told the wait was an hour, but it turned out to be only about 30 minutes - we only had to watch the retarded video one and a half times.
Again, Rachel and I did not tell Srini and Lisa anything about what was inside, so they were pretty pumped when they saw the train launching. So was I. Something about the sound of FOF launching, and the echoing that comes out of the tunnel after each launch, gets me excited like no other coaster.
The ride seemed a little rougher than usual, especially the first inversion, and the block brakes caught a little harder than they did two years ago - but still, this ride is outstanding. Especially that last spiral from the block brakes, to that insane change of direction, to the ground-hugging turn and into the corkscrew - pure genius, that section. Everyone loved the ride.
Exiting FOF, we walked through Coney Mall, and Srini and Lisa grabbed some sandwiches at Subway. I wasn't hungry, so I went into the Coney Mall arcade for a game of DDR. There is a 7th mix in this arcade, probably one of the few left in the state, and why I didn't play it, I have no idea. There are quite a few songs on there I've never played, and I really wanted to, but for some reason, I put my tokens into the Extreme. Force of habit, I guess. Anyway, I played a set of Yozora No Muko, CSFILSM and Saint Goes Marching, but no AAs because of not-so-accurate sensors.
Everyone was finishing their sandwiches when I was done, so we moved on, bypassing Racer, even though it looked to be a walk-on. We hit Adventure Express next, one of Rachel's favorite rides, just because it's so cheesy. It was literally a walk-on, as a train was waiting for us when we entered the station. All four of us had either bottles of water or slushies, but the ride ops did not bother to take them from us or tell us to put them on the shelf. We made no efforts to hide them, either.
I've always disliked this ride, because it jerks you around too much, and the ending is so anti-climatic. But we had fun attempting not to spill our drinks, and we all screamed as loudly as possible in the final tunnel. Good times.
Entering the Action Zone next, I really wanted a ride on Drop Zone, so Rachel, who dislikes drop rides, sat this one out while the rest of us got in line. It turned out to be about 20 minutes, or about four ride cycles. While in line, we noted it was about 5:30 and said we'd ride coasters until 6:30, then head to the waterpark.
Drop Zone immediately became Srini and Lisa's favorite drop ride, besting Power Tower, they said, by a long shot. I love that dropping feeling and PT just doesn't do it for me.
Next we got in line for Son of Beast, which was a walk-on. This is the last time I will ever ride this ride. It was so painfully, inconceivably rough, like a thousand monkeys were hitting the bottom of the train with sledgehammers. Even the loop is rough. Even the curve between the lift hill and the drop is rough. Even the LIFT HILL ITSELF is rough. All three of us were literally screaming in pain throughout the ride. And it's so loud, I think I suffered hearing loss. Surprisingly, though Srini and I were able to get Rachel's attention from the lift as she sat on a bench below and waited for us.
Then it was time for Top Gun, also a walk-on. I always liked this ride, but it's acquired a lurching kind of forward-and-back shuffle that makes me a little sick to my stomach. I'm starting to think I wouldn't be so upset if this actually is the ride to disappear next year.
So we were done with the park, and it was only 6:10. We went out to the car (woot, preferred parking pays off), got our swim trunks, and walked to the water park, stopping in kiddieland for some of that awesome blueberry ice cream (with sprinkles, of course).
When we got to the "new" waterpark, I was a little surprised. I was under the impression that the entire park had been leveled and all the slides were new. But as it turns out, I think only one set of slides was replaced. All the other older slides are still there.
So after we changed, we had about an hour and 10 minutes to spare, and we decided to get a quick ride on the Down Under Thunder. We figured with only about 20 people in line, and with four slides, the line would go fast and we would get wet quickly.
Nope. Thanks to the Butt Nazis, who made sure no one had rivets on their swim trunks, we waited a full 30 minutes. We saw a 10-year-old kid get turned away because of a tiny rivet on the back of his shorts. They made me roll up the leg of my suit because a pocket on the side had a rivet.
The slide was pretty typical for a body slide, but at least we finally got wet, and the water was nice and cool. So with time short, we hurried over to the large slide where four people ride at once in a large tube (sorry, forget the name). That one's always fun.
Now we had 30 minutes to go, and we all wanted to ride the funnel slide (once again, have no idea what the name of it is). This slide is really in the boondocks - like a 10-minute walk from where we were. I rode this at Holiday World last year and wasn't that impressed. Once we got there, we got right on.
I don't know what was wrong with me at Holiday World, but this is a BLAST. With four adults, we got some huge airtime on the drop into the funnel, and we got WAY up onto the side of it. We loved it so much, we ran around and rode it again.
With 10 minutes to spare, we ran to the very warm wave pool for a few minutes of relaxation, and when the waves stopped, we changed clothes (and witnessed a loud domestic disturbance), walked back to our car and left. We hit Skyline Chili at the entrance to the Beach on the way out, and I learned a new way to order my 3-way: "dry," meaning you don't get that sloppy wet stuff under the spaghetti. On the way home, we saw the most beautiful sunset of all time.
Flash-forward to Wednesday morning. This trip was a little different. I acted as one of four chaperones to 15 junior high and high school kids from my church. My duty was to drive one of the church vans to Cedar Point. We left about 8 a.m. and got there at 10:30 - pretty good time in a 15-passenger van.
On trips like this, we've always gone by the rule that junior high kids have to stick with an adult, but high schoolers can go off by themselves. We had with us two juniors, one eighth-grader and the rest of the kids were all going into their freshman year. We realized that nobody wants to hang with the youth sponsors, so we decided just to let them all go. We walked the kids together to the big fountain on the midway, told them to meet us at 4 p.m., and let them scatter. That left us four sponsors to do what we wanted. :)
First thing we did was head for TTD. We waited for about an hour, and it wasn't a bad wait at all. The launches seemed to get weaker and weaker as we watched, and when we were about 5 minutes from the station, one train stalled on the top hat for a few seconds before cresting. There was a pause and we thought for sure they were going to shut down to reset it or something, but they didn't.
I rode in the second row. This was only my third ride on TTD, and it was just as great as the first two. Nothing like a 120 mph-launch to get your blood pumping.
We had met up with two of our kids in the TTD line. One of them was bragging about how he had just gone to Geauga Lake and how it was so much better than Cedar Point (even though this was his first time at CP and he hadn't ridden anything yet). He loved TTD (and everything else he rode that day), but he refused to admit CP was better. Tough guy.
We started to make our rounds then, hitting Magnum, which was a walk-on and which grabbed with the trim brake a little too hard to make the return trip much fun, and Gemini, which had a 10-minute wait and some good hand-slapping. We also rode the mine ride, which apart from the final helix is amazingly lame.
We stopped at a place on the Frontier Trail for food, and I got a cheeseburger meal that was supposed to come with a "topping cup." I've gotten this before and I know it should have come with onion, tomato, lettuce and pickle. But no topping cup was in site. After I got my burger, the guy told me they were out of topping cups. Mmm, plain hamburger. I tried to make do with ketchup and mustard, but it was pretty nasty.
We met up with some more of our kids who were marathoning the water rides and were soaked to the bone.
Millennium Force came around next, and we waited about an hour, half of that in the front-seat line. I think MF has overtaken Raptor as my favorite ride at CP. It's the sustained speed that puts it over the top. I still always blue out after the first overbanked turn.
We had spent a lot of time talking during lunch, and after that ride on MF, it was time to meet at the fountain. We were very happy to find that all 15 kids arrived on time, so we sent them all off again to meet at 9 p.m. A couple of the kids were bored (the juniors) and wanted to leave early, but not enough to justify it, so we told them they were just going to have to stick it out.
Being right there, I, along with three of the kids and one other sponsor, headed for MaxAir. The line was super-short, and it only took three ride cycles to get on. I couldn't believe how much fun airtime there was, and the visuals are great. However, after the second or third full swing, I felt that familiar queasy feeling in my stomach and realized it was probably a mistake for me to ride MaxAir in the first place. By the time the ride stopped, I was feeling pretty bad.
So I did possibly the worst thing I could have done, which was go into the un-air-conditioned arcade for a couple games of DDR. By that time, the rest of the sponsors and some of the kids had met up with us, and all of them watched me play, along with about a dozen strangers, so I couldn't just play easy stuff. I ended up playing two full games of 9-footers, and after that, the sweat was running down my face like I've never felt before. Of course, the whole thing just made me more nauseated.
When we exited the arcade, we found that it was now pouring down rain. We stood around for about 15 minutes, then when the rain slowed, we went back to MF for another ride - but at this point, the thought of riding anything made me retch, so I sat on a bench and watched Mantis while everyone else got in line. It started raining again, so I went to a nearby shop with an awning and sat on the floor. I called my wife. She reminded me that, in the past, when I've felt sick after a ride, ice cream always seems to help. So I walked to the nearest ice cream shop, but the smell of sweets made me feel even worse this time.
So I got the only thing that sounded good to me: a cup of coffee. I am pretty sure this is the only time I've ever gotten coffee at an amusement park, especially when it's 90 degrees out. But it tasted so good, and when I had finished the cup, the nausea was gone. Sweet, soul-reviving coffee, how I love thee.
I sat on a bench drinking my coffee and watching kids stomp around in a giant puddle until my party got done with MF. One of the sponsors kept talking about these great $3 salads somewhere in the park, so we followed her to the Chuckwagon near Mean Streak. The restaurant was actually quite a find, and the salads were pretty good, even though it was mostly iceberg. The sponsors and the two juniors sat in there and talked for a while more while it rained outside.
Finally the rain ended for good and we once again walked the Frontier Trail back to Mantis, where we waited about 25 minutes for a front-seat ride. No trim brakes! We got an intense ride and everyone's legs were tingling.
We had about an hour until 9 p.m., and we thought we'd get multiple rides on Raptor during that time, but we were surprised to find that line rather long. It took all of 45 minutes for a front-seat ride - but this is the only ride I insist on waiting for the front. It's a terrible ride anywhere else, IMO - as are all inverts. But in the front - perfect (well, except that snap back into the station).
We were left with 10 minutes to spare, so most people went to grab a quick ride on Blue Streak, but I hit the arcade for one more game of DDR. Once again, all the kids were on time at the fountain - I was very impressed. We all headed out to the vans then for the long ride home.
I bet you've been wondering why the topic of this TR is "A Flock of Seagulls." Here it is. On the way out, we saw a huge empty section of the parking lot was filled with about a billion seagulls. I told the driver of the van to drive through them at high speeds, half-joking, but he did it. You can imagine the reaction from a van full of 14-year-old girls. It was quite hilarious.
No seagulls were harmed in the writing of this TR, by the way.
I started getting a little nauseated from time to time a few years ago. Last year I decided to try some Dramamine and it really works well. I just pop one about a half hour before I get to a park and I'm good the rest of the day. I love to "power ride" and try to get as much in in one day as I can and taking the Dramamine helps. Staying hydrated also seems to help.
#1 Steel: Sky Rush
#1 Wood: Voyage
#1Park: Holiday World
But that's just gross, not vulgar.
Seriously though, why do people wear "Big Johnson" T-shirts and other shirts like that? If they're trying to shock people, well, that's not going to shock anyone. If they think they're funny, they need a new sense of humor.
Thanks for the TR!
At first I thought this was going to be a TR including a Flock Of Seagulls playing at the Timberwolf or something. ;-)
and when the waves stopped, we changed clothes (and witnessed a loud domestic disturbance), walked back to our car and left.
Fate is the path of least resistance.
I'm in awe that your kids showed up on time, though. I've never actually been out of a park before meeting time + 30 minutes when the church group was there.
Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."
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