“You have got to be kidding me!”
Crazy trips. I love doing crazy trips. Some people don’t understand why someone would want to do a crazy trip like I just did last weekend, but it would be very difficult for me to explain the whole reason behind doing them other than to have fun. I mean, that’s the basic reason why we do what we do. Right?
One crazy trip I did in 2001 consisted of my great friend from California, Jeff Johnson, and myself doing 19 parks in one week. That’s 18 parks in California and 1 short side trip to Idaho. I don’t realize how insane trips like this are until I usually get back home. While on the trip, I focus on having as much fun as possible in a short amount of time.
This past weekend was no different in that I knew I was to do some parks in a strange order, but I really didn’t think much into the logistics of this trip as I really was busy at work and thought everything would fit right into place.
After hearing so much hype about Dollywood’s new Thunderhead, I decided to head down there as soon as I had some time to do so. I was originally going to go to Dollywood in July or August but the hype got to me. I really do try to avoid any type of hype out there but it was so difficult not to hear about this coaster. Everyone I talked to, and I mean everyone, who had ridden it had nothing but praise for the new wooden ride. I had to get down there soon to see for myself.
I had paid a visit to one of my great friends, Bill Berkey last March. Bill is now a father to two boys and has kind of let his whole mad traveling days fade. I mentioned to him in March that I would love to sometimes do another psycho trip with him in the future. Little did I know it was going to be sooner than I thought.
I got a call one night from Bill saying he also wanted to go down to Dollywood and quickly set up a date. It worked fine for me. Another friend, Chris Trotter, would also be going. The thought of the three of us doing a trip together was more than enough to get me to go as I haven’t traveled with the two of them together for a few years now.
There was a slight bug in the plans though. I was invited to attend the Six Flags Great America media day on the 20th of May. We then decided to just leave for Dollywood on the morning of the 21st, and get to the park at opening. This sounded like a plan. Everyone was looking forward to it. Bill’s former insane planning side started to show up once more as he threw in 3 other parks in the mix just to have as much fun as possible.
It sounded so simple. Do Six Flags Great America on Thursday. Go to Dollywood on Friday. Lake Winnie, Nashville Valley, and Beech Bend on Saturday, then go home. Easy. Right?
On Wednesday the 19th, I did my 12 hour shift at work like I normally do. I packed my clothes the night before so I wouldn’t have to after I got off work. Once I go home at 7:00pm, I quickly went home and changed before heading off to the Port Columbus International Airport to make my 9:00pm flight to Chicago.
I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I dropped off my car and took the shuttle to the terminal as usual. My trip was about to officially begin. As I was sitting at my gate, I began to wonder something about this trip.
When would I sleep?
I had to be at Six Flags at 4:00am. I didn’t get back into Columbus until midnight that night, and I was to leave for Dollywood at 3:00am. This was going to be tricky. I have done worse trips but I usually have at least a few hours of sleep before I do a psycho trip like this. This time, I was starting the trip after doing a 12-hour shift. It looked like the only time I would be able to sleep was hopefully on the way to Dollywood somehow. That still was far away. I had already been up since 6:00am this morning, and I wouldn’t be sleeping until 3:00am the next day. That means I would probably be up for around 45 hours. Oh boy!
I tried to come up with a few small sleep times. I could sleep for 45 minutes on the flight to Chicago. I could maybe get a couple of hours in before the media day was to start. Maybe another 45 minutes on the flight back home. Perhaps an hour before I leave for Dollywood. Maybe a…………… Who am I kidding? I was screwed.
The flight to Chicago took shorter than expected. The flight only lasted 45 minutes total. That’s the good thing. The bad thing was we were delayed by a half hour because another plane was at our gate waiting for passengers from another flight, and all the other gates were filled. This meant I wouldn’t be getting into my hotel until after midnight. Remember, I had to be at the park at 4:00am.
Once I was in the airport, I quickly found my way to the Hertz rental car desk. The woman behind the counter wanted to know where I was heading to. When I told her I was going to Six Flags Great America, she was curious as to why someone from Ohio would be traveling to Six Flags. I simply explained to her that I loved to ride coasters. She then asked me if I had gone to Cedar Point. I could have talked to her about coasters all night but I really didn’t have the time. I picked up Chevy Impala and headed to I-55 South. I knew traffic wasn’t going to be this bad at night but I was surprised at how much traffic there was. There was a few times where it slowed down quite a bit, but nothing horrible.
I picked up I-294 and headed north to pick up I-94. I have only driven to the park in the day and nothing looked familiar when I got about 10 miles away from the park. I got off at an exit to make sure I read the map correctly. Had I gone another 10 miles, I would have easily seen the park and wouldn’t have had to stop.
By this time I was pretty hungry. I didn’t eat any dinner and passed on snacks on the flight so I tried to find something quick to eat. My hotel was in Wisconsin, about a half hour away from Six Flags. I found it with no problem. By the time I checked in, it was just about midnight. I had gotten my second wind by this time and couldn’t fall asleep. This was bad as I needed to sleep as much as I could. I ended up with about an hour and a half before waking up and getting ready to head to the park. It wasn’t exactly real sleep, but I did get to rest my eyes.
The half-hour drive to the park was pretty uneventful. What I found strange about it was there was a definite change in something as soon as I crossed into Illinois. I can’t really explain it. Perhaps it was the visuals or something. I am not sure. It was just different.
I arrived at Grand Avenue just before 4:00AM. As I was pulling into the vacant Six Flags parking lot, I noticed a media van leaving the park. This couldn’t be good. Was the media event cancelled? I noticed a truck sitting in the lot so I pulled into a space near it. As I exited my rental car, I noticed that the man sitting in the truck was Darren Bolton, the regional rep for the area. Darren and I started talking. He said there was a strong threat of storms in the area. It was certainly muggy, but it didn’t seem like it was going to rain anytime soon. Who am I to judge? I am not a meteorologist.
Darren and I walked up to the front gate and were welcomed by a friendly security guard. The guard told us things were running slightly behind and we should wait for a few more moments. Soon, other enthusiasts started to show up. In total, there were probably about 15 or 20 of us there. Soon, we were welcomed by the marketing and ride team. As we checked in, we were given a ride pass. I found this to be strange but it did have a purpose.
As we were let into the park, we were told about what was planned. We also were welcomed to a nice breakfast while crews continued to put finishing touches on some of the attractions. While we were eating, we could get a good look at 4 of the 5 new rides. King Chaos (Top Spin) wasn’t going to operate this day. Supposedly they hadn’t hooked up the power to it just yet as they were waiting for a part. The ride was clearly one that used to travel but the new paint job on it made it look brand new.
Some of us took a ride on the new Jester’s Wild Ride (Rock-N-Tug). While not the most thrilling ride I have ridden, it’s going to be a family magnet. It rides like a tamer version of the Disk-O. The Balloon Race ride was running as well and we took a quick spin on it. It moved faster than I thought it would. The ride was having some problems though as it couldn’t operate more than one time every 5 minutes. I am sure the park will fix this soon. It’s has a nice location in the area and provides a nice view of the new attractions.
The Ragin' Cajun coaster had just started running. We saw a group of media take a quick ride on it. It looked like it was running great. We walked over to the ride to check it out. They were running two cars on the ride. One with a camera. One without. For some reason, they were only loading the one car with a camera, and were only letting a couple people ride it. We were a patient group and decided to wait it out. Those ride passes that we got while we were checking in were good for one ride on the coaster. The coaster wasn’t exactly ready for the masses, but the park offered us a single ride on it just to thank us for coming.
Most of us took this time to chat with each other. I was the only one from my area attending so I got to talk a lot with some of the local enthusiasts. I spent a lot of time talking with Andrew Harman, Mike Parker, Brian Plencener, Anthony Gagliardi, Julie Stone, Chris Clark, Jack Larimore, Scott, Shaffer, and a few others.
The park decided to fill up both cars with media and enthusiasts. I would be riding with Darren, Mike, and Andrew. Andrew and I sat on one side. Mike and Darren on the other. We were hoping we would get some serious spinning due to the weight placement. We were asked to hop into our themed car and hand over our ride passes. We attempted to fasten our seat belts but a couple of them were really tangled up. This is the first Reverchon spinning mouse that I have ridden where seat belts are required. I hate to say it, but those belts are going to be a pain once this coaster opens as they get tangled very easily.
The ride itself started out just like the other Reverchon mice I have ridden. The first half was pretty much like that of a standard mouse complete with some very strong laterals. We all commented that we had never felt laterals like that on a Reverchon before. Perhaps the fact that it was virtually running for the first time this day had something to do with that? Who knows?
Once we arrived at the spinning portion, we prepared ourselves for some mad spinning. We were puzzled that the first half of the spinning section didn’t offer us much spinning at all. That was, until we hit the last half. Oh man! We spun like mad. I have never had that much spinning in that short amount of time. It was great! When we hit the final brakes, we continued to spin rapidly. What a ride!
After our ride, we walked around the new area a bit and continued to watch the coaster operate. We noticed that if a group of riders got a lot of spinning on the first half of the spinning portion, the second half would have almost no spinning at all. For our ride, it was the other way around.
I could tell the park wasn’t exactly happy with the fact that all the rides weren’t up and running. Even though we got to see King Chaos move for the first time, it wasn’t able to take on riders. The park continued to add themed statues around the rides and restaurant as we continued our walk around.
Then a big surprise!
I am not sure exactly why, but the park decided to open up a ride for us as they knew running the new coaster over and over wasn’t going to happen. We were told to wait a few minutes and we would be able to ride Superman: Ultimate Flight!
Even though it may seem like a strange move to open up a ride that isn’t part of the media day package, the park provided everyone with a chance to get in some rides on another coaster. I thought this was a very cool gesture and I thank Six Flags for it. With a two train operation, this meant that no one needed to get out of their seats unless someone else wanted that particular seat.
I started off by riding the front row, then going to the back for a couple of rides. I then decided to sit in a row near the back and ride until they decided to kick us off. This ended up being over an hour of unexpected ride time. I got in 15 rides total. Some people don’t like that ride but I love it. It more than woke me up. I needed something to make up for the lack of sleep I had and this was the perfect solution.
Our ride time came to a close at around 9:00am. We were told to walk back to the entrance of the new area to watch the opening ceremonies. Once the ribbon was cut, we were asked to go back to Ragin’ Cajun and ride with the media. No one had any problems getting another ride on that coaster.
The opening ceremony was pretty cool. There were a lot of characters dancing around. One woman was on stilts and juggling. Another character was eating fire while another was blowing fire out of her mouth. Add some very loud daytime fireworks and you have a spectacular intro to the new area. By this time, the park was open to the public.
Once the ribbon was cut, we made our way over to the new coaster but were told we weren’t allowed to ride as the ride was going to be taking a couple more media aboard then close for the rest of the day. I am just glad I got to ride it once. I wasn’t complaining. I don’t think I heard anyone complaining but I did hear a couple of comments made by two people that were, in my opinion, uncalled for. I will leave it at that.
Since the park was open, I hung out with a group of locals and we decided to ride as much as we could. The park was going to be empty this day and we took advantage of it. In particular, I was really looking forward to riding Déjà Vu. I have ridden the other two in the country, but this version is always closed. As with the 4 other times I have visited the park in the last two years, a ride on Déjà Vu was not to happen this day. Closed as usual. Oh well, there are other rides to be ridden.
I don’t remember the exact order in which we rode, but we rode a lot in the park. Dungeon Drop and Raging Bull were running great. Viper was running fast as usual. I usually skip Demon but we ended up getting a double ride on it. Not as bad as I remembered.
Batman looks amazing with its new paint job. I was impressed. The ride was just as intense as it usually is. My feet even went numb during one point on the ride. Andrew showed us an area where we could get a good view of the first drop and loop. We also took a quick ride on V2. Julie lost some of her beads the park gave us while in the holding brake section on the back spike.
We decided to skip riding Iron Wolf and give the new Revolution: The Ride a spin. This Huss Frisbee once operated at Six Flags Great Adventure, where I rode it there as well. It appears that SFGAm decided to raise the ride a few feet as the tire assembly looks higher than I have seen in previous versions. The program that was running was nice.
By this time it was very humid out. We were all pretty hot and wanted to cool down someplace while eating. The locals told me they usually like to leave the park and get something to eat. I decided to go with them. I forgot the name of the place we ate at, but it was good. We had a great time talking about our day. Mike stole the show by the comments he made about the sundae I ordered for desert, something I usually skip at meals.
After our meal, we headed back into the park and continued to ride. We rode the observation tower where I was able to get a couple of nice pics of Superman and the new coaster. Brian also talked us into taking a ride on the newly themed Stargate motion simulator. I admit. I am not a fan of simulators. They just don’t offer me a big thrill. Sometimes if a simulator has a movie that is in 3-D, I will like them better as I am a huge fan of 3-D movies, but I could easily pass on a ride on a motion simulator and not feel like I missed something. This was the case with this particular version, although the movie that was being played reminded me a lot of Paramount’s 7th Portal movie that used to play at various Paramount Parks. I mean, there were some things in this new movie that were obviously taken out of 7th Portal’s ideas. It wasn’t the worst one I have ridden so that’s a good thing.
We headed to the back of the park to take a ride on American Eagle. I have never been a fan of this ride. Last year, I finally got an outstanding ride on it due to the backwards facing train I was riding in. Unfortunately, the backwards side wasn’t running. I can’t even pinpoint what I don’t like about this ride, but there is something. Perhaps if I took a few more backwards rides, my opinion would change.
I decided to leave the park at 4:00pm so I could have plenty of time to make my 9:00pm flight back to Columbus. I ended my day with a ride on Whizzer, Raging Bull, and Superman. I said my goodbyes to the great local group I was hanging out with, and then headed into the parking lot to my rental car.
I thought the drive back to Midway would be a piece of cake. I was going to go back the same way I arrived. I knew there would be some traffic but I had no idea what I was in store for. To make a long story short, my drive ended up being over 3 hours long. The traffic was horrible. While I do like Chicago, there is no chance I would ever live in this city as it always seems I get stuck in some sort of traffic.
I did make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. As I was walking to my gate, I noticed a sign warning about filming. How could I have forgotten? There is a reality show on Monday nights called Airline. It is shown on A&E. I am not the largest fan of reality shows. For the most part, I don’t watch them, but I have made a couple of exceptions. I do watch Airline as it deals with Southwest Airlines. Since I fly them all the time, I get a kick out of seeing what the crews deal with on a daily basis. I believe I have seen every episode of the first season of Airline.
Just after I read the sign about filming, I noticed a television crew walking by me. Could this be the Airline crew? I took a quick picture and headed off to my gate. I sat down and decided to listen to some tunes. I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings and just stared out the window while listening to music. After a while, I decided to try and rest a bit so I put my music away. I look over to the ride and see the Airline crew is at my gate. They were shooting random people waiting. I have no idea if they taped any of us that were waiting for our flight or not.
I hadn’t heard an update on my flight. The plane I was supposed to be getting on hadn’t arrived yet so I went over to the counter to check. My flight was delayed by about an hour at this point due to bad weather. Just as I was talking to the woman behind the counter, the Airline crew showed up again and stood by me listening to the woman talking about the delayed flight. One of the Southwest managers, Anita, also came over to check on the status of another flight. Anita is a regular on the show and I recognized her.
It looked like the Airline crew was taking a break. I casually asked them if they were indeed the Airline crew. They confirmed it with me. I told them I watch the show all the time and think they do a great job. We then started talking for a few minutes about the show and how they were taping things in Chicago for the second season. I even got to chat a bit with Anita. Everyone was very nice and I am glad I got to talk with them about a few of the technical aspects of the show. They even allowed me to snap a quick group photo.
I went back to my seat and waited for my flight. As I was staring out the window, I could see an approaching storm. Hopefully I would be able to get on my flight before the storm hit. It was already being delayed an hour. I ended up taking with a couple of people from my flight for another hour. I normally don’t talk much while waiting for flights as I am usually listening to music, but the conversations I had made the time go by really fast.
Before I knew it, I was on my flight back to Columbus. I tried to get some sleep on the flight but I got an energy boost and sleeping wasn’t going to happen. By the time I reached Columbus. I was really tired again.
I was met at my gate by my good friend Danielle Miller. She works for Delta and knew my flight was arriving so she decided to drop by my gate and say hello. Danielle is another enthusiast. She lived in New York City for most of her life. We became really good friends on the European trip we did in 2002. She would visit every once in a while. She always said she loved Columbus and one day she applied for a transfer. She now lives in Columbus and loves it.
I was really tired by this time. She wanted to chat for a few moments but I really needed to get home because I was going to start the second part of my trip in just a couple of hours. She said she understood. She has done some psycho trips in the past. By the time I got home, it was 1:00am. My friends Chris Trotter and Bill Berkey were to meet me at my house at 3:00pm. I didn’t get a chance to get any sleep so I just finished getting ready. At 3:00am, I hopped into Chris’s SUV and we began our journey to Tennessee. By this time, I hadn’t had any real sleep which meant I had been up for about 45 hours.
How was I going to pull off the rest of this trip without wanting to sleep all the time?
The incredible wake up call that is Thunderhead and Lake Winnie
Thanks for reading,
-Sean *** Edited 5/26/2004 3:41:43 AM UTC by Sean Flaharty***
Sean Flaharty said:I did hear a couple of comments made by two people that were, in my opinion, uncalled for.
Good TR as always - I'm eager to read about your impressions of Thunderhead.
Nice TR, Sean.
Moosh, I see your point, but this trip really was different for me as I haven't done one like it in a while. The trip that Jeff Johnson and I have planned later in the year will be really insane.
I'm lucky if I can stay up past 11 p.m., so kudos to you...
I have always been more of a night owl type of person. I am not that big of a morning person but if I need to get up and running for a trip or something else I want to do, then I have no problem with mornings.
Oh, and Matt D., to answer your question, I did have a day off after this trip to relax a bit before going back to work. I am trying to work that into my travel scheadules when time permits it. Going back to work just a few hours after ending a trip can be really depressing at times.
Also, what are the supports and track for in this pic?(In the back of the pic)
That picture also shows off Ragin' Cajun's station, and it looks fantastic!
On work nights,I usually get to sleep by midnight. I have to get up at 6:00AM and be at work at 7:00AM so I try to get at least 6 hours of shut eye.
On trips, that usually goes out the window. Especially when I go out west. Jet lag sucks.
The station for Ragin Cajun wasn't nearly finished when we were at the park. It looks neat from that angle but it was more of a facade than an actual full station when I was there. They were still working on it. If you can see it, there is a large concrete slab in front of the station. That's where the zig-zags for the line will be.
The hotel I stayed in was a Best Western. The park provided the out of towners a room for the night. I thought this was a nice jesture and didn't complain when I found out it was in Wisconsin. It honestly wasn't a long drive but I have a feeling that if the room just happend to be closer, something would have prevented me in checking in until later. Things like that happen to me sometimes.
I saw the completed station yesterday, and it does indeed look fantastic. I was just pointing out that you could get a good idea of how great it looks in one of your pictures. There's also a wonderful lit sign for the ride on the front. And it's still basically just a facade. :)
I don't know if I saw the lit sign or not. I remember seeing a small sign, but I have no idea if it was the sign you mentioned.
The facade does look nice when you are walking up to it.
Does anyone know if the station will be open like it is, or have they just decided to finish it at a later time?
I'm guessing the station will stay open like it is now. It has a roof, it's really just the back wall that's missing. Also, judging from your pictures, the lit sign I spoke of was not there during your visit.
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