Paramount's Kings Dominion TR - 5/30 (Long)

Associated parks:
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Sunday, June 1, 2003 3:30 AM
After several long years, it was finally back to Paramount's Kings Dominion for the first visit of 2003 with plenty to look forward to riding. Finally, the two towers came into view off in the distance. I can tell you now, there's no other sight in the world that can compare to the skyline of a major park - the towering rides like mammoth sculptures against the sky in all of their multicolored glory. New this year, Drop Zone, rivaling the Eiffel Tower's height for the first time at 305 feet of orange and yellow Intamin tower, and a giant American Flag now adorns the front face of the Eiffel Tower.

First, it was off to the season pass processing office and then through the turnstiles and some average park security and into the park. My first ride to hit would be HyperSonic XLC, so I made my way down International Street and through Old Virginia to the back. I love the interaction that HyperSonic has with the midway, the path leading under the better half of the ride right under track and past the giant white support columns, and PKD has also added some gardens to the area the last couple of years so that it's more than just steel and asphalt.

The first thing you notice as you near the entry to the queue is the blasting roar of the launch, then the train gliding through the course and crashing into the brake run with plenty of speed to spare. HyperSonic's line was extending out into the pathway, but only due to a system of filling the first part of the line, then sending groups of 8 or 10 through the remaining queue to the station. A second train had just been placed on the track, and after several test runs, the line got moving again. I was first in my group to the station, so I got to the front line and only had to wait about 5 trains until I got on. Train number one was off the track, but the wait wasn't too bad. The crew was doing a good job dispatching quickly and filling up most of the seats, and one of the ride ops hopped on next to me for a quick ride. Talk about job perks ;)

After pulling down the double lap and leg restraint, we get moving around the first curve and slow to a stop part way while the train in back advances. Onto the straight track, the train jerks slightly a couple times, slows, and parks itself. Beep, beep, beep... "Face forward. Keep your head against the head rest. Your arms must be down. Prepare for launch." We sit for 15 seconds, looking straight ahead at the launch track and tower, then WHAM!!! I don't care how many coaster shows or onride footage you've seen, NOTHING can prepare you for this launch. You're abselutely STAPLED to the back of the seat as you race forward at 80 MPH and curve vertically; this launch is as intense as it gets. Shooting straight up, the ride makes its 180-degree transition and presents an eyefull of the park to you, slowing as it heads back down.

Arms up is the only way to go as the coaster glides down through the pullout over the path below, banking steeply and smoothly completing the turnaround. The curvature reverses direction of travel and the white track sends the train into the final hop, dishing up plenty of airtime overover the crest, then quickly braking. Curving back into the station, the train moves up and comes to a stop, then most riders struggle to raise their restraints before exiting.

HyperSonic comes in at number four steel coaster for me, just ahead of Dorney Park's Laser and behind Six Flags America's Batwing for its amazing launch and smooth, speedy and powerful ride, although it's hard to take it all in after just one short ride.

Next, it was on to the neighboring Ricochet for a ride. Almost a walk-on, only seven others in front of me in the station. The ride is probably in an inconvenient spot for park traffic, but if a path is put through to the waterpark, I'm sure that that would change. Boarding the four-seater, a simple lap bar is secured and it's off around the first turn to the lift. The lift slope is steeper than I expected, and at the top it's around one more curve and then down the plunge.

It's okay so far, until the ride rounds a turn and purs on the brakes. I see no need for the first block brake section that Ricochet has, as it slows down the course too much too soon and takes away most of any whip effect from the hairpins. The ride speeds up a little for the final three corners, then we brake one last time.

A nice little wild mouse with a good first drop, so it comes in at number three on my junior list, just behind the Dahlonega Mine Train of Six Flags over Georgia and PKD's own Avalanche.

The third ride for the day would be Drop Zone. Heading over to it, I noticed all of the improvements to the Grove the past few years, including the conversion of most of the asphalt to brick. The tower itself is a definite eye-catcher, especially as the ring plunges towards the ground. Drop Zone's line moves quickly; the fifty-six-rider seating vehicle is impressive for both size and capacity. Queuers are divided into four colored groups to board, and I believe that I got purple.

DZ's seating is classic Intamin sitdown comfort, still though it would have been cool, IMO, for one of the Paramount Drop Zone Stunt Towers to feature stand-up, 90-degree-tilting seating... Would have been just like skydiving, fitting perfectly with the movie theme. But if you want capacity, this ride pleases. After a minute, we begin to move. The ride starts upwards at a good rate of speed, rising up and over all of PKD's other thrillrides towards the top 272-foot elevation. Most of the riders were just sitting there, and then, there's me, trying to get some good shots of the park, leaning over to try and get a shot looking straight below. One guy next to me found it funny that I actually brought my camera on.... Just goes to show what an enthusiast I am.

The Eiffel Tower has finally been dethroned as the best view in the park - the vista from Drop Zone is amazing. Since you're seated so far from the tower, you just feel like you're floating through the air as you ascend. We come smoothly to a stop, but only sit for a couple seconds before the inevitable. Falling, accelerating, plunging straight down, Drop Zone, unlike other Intamin towers I've ridden, gives ample and appreciable freefall time, three and a half seconds worth, which leads me to believe that any single-drop tower should be atleast 300 feet to be fully enjoyed.

Brakes begin a short time from the bottom to bring the ride to a safe stop fairly close to the ground, then we're lowered the rest of the way back to the concrete. After the ride, nothing compares to the several dozen people you'll hear all raving about the same ride at once. For me, Drop Zone nudges Six Flags over Georgia's Acrophobia out of second place and stands just behind Dominator of Dorney Park's Space Shot in my freefall rankings.

I walked across to Shockwave and got in line, which began about halfway up the ramp. It's good in a way to see that Shockwave has gained back its popularity since lines were almost non-existant after the death in late '99, but loading was slow when I was there. It seems that every time the train was fully loaded, someone had to get out or readjust their restraint for one reason or another.

After about a half-hour in the station and one temporary ride breakdown, I finally got on. The safety belts make it more difficult than before to wiggle out, but the ride ops didn't seem to even notice whena smaller rider next to me didn't have the butterfly restraints pushed together at all - leaving plenty of room for someone of that size to squeeze free of the restraint. But mine, on the other hand, was accidentally pressed uncomfortably tight by a ride op passing over the car. I didn't want to hold up the line any more than it had been, however, so I just put up with it.

The coaster itself hasn't changed much since my last visit other than the new color scheme: fairly slow lift, good forces down the first drop, through the vertical loop and up the second climb, some great standup air, but some painful curve transitions. I hope that Shockwave stays, atleast for a few more years. I really don't see any need to remove it, although I could still see it happening in the near future. Some retracking could be done though, especially for that last banked turnaround.

Next, it was off into the Congo. Checked out the Diamond Falls site a little; not room enough for a Tomb Raider: the Ride like Paramount's Kings Island's version, but a prime location for a major themed flat ride. I wouldn't be surprised if it had the Tomb Raider theme, seeing the little display out front, but then again, maybe PKD's trying to throw us off with this one.

Flight of Fear was my first ride stop in this section, as I was looking forward to lapbars only. I don't like the fact that the interior of the building is now brighter than before - it sort of takes away that added dimension in the theme. If people were having trouble getting around, my suggestion would be for the park to make the floor glow slightly. I did notice some changes since the drop of the Outer Limits name - I didn't see the portion of the video that went "For the next hour we are in control of all that you see and hear.", but what happened to the little things that were said before blastoff? I liked them. They didn't have any affiliation to Outer Limits, did they?

It was great to sit down in FoF's non-OTSR front seat for the first time. Lap / leg-bar down, then the classic pre-blastoff 'warming up' noise. We rocket down the tunnel, blasting all of the way down to the little red light at the end where we start up into the cobra roll. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that the entire circuit had been retracked - that's how much of a difference the lapbars make.

Flying through that spaghetti bowl in darkness is amazing, and I didn't get jerked around one single time in the duration of the ride. After the block brakes, you're leaning almost completely on your side for a moment there. An awesome ride, now more than ever. Definitely a top ten for me.

After that, I headed to my true all-time favorite right next door, following the classic African Congo tunes. On the way, I noted how good the Scrambler looks in its new location. I always love walking under that Volcano sign, up the sloping queue built into the rock and into the cave, the erupting mountain towering above. Walked all the way to the end of the queue building before hitting any line. I got on the front row soon after.

Some seat and harness replacements make Volcano even more comfortable than before, if that's at all possible. Bending from the station, legs dangling, we advance to the launch zone. Track heading through the mountain, supports lining the way straight ahead, then... POW!! Volcano is as smooth and flawless as ever, and I'll never grow tired of the Blast Coaster. The on-ride photo seemed to be shooting, but the photo purchasing area was blocked off in the gift shop.

Anaconda came next, with one of the shortest waits in the park. While in the station, I glance over at Drop Zone ascending, pausing at the top, and then... Nothing. The poor little peeps were stuck at the top for upwards of five minutes until finally dropping. More on that later. On Anaconda, there's some new padding in place this year, making for a little more comfortable ride. The coaster was jerky in four or five spots as usual, but I seemed to enjoy it more than usual for some reason.

One thing that I noticed with the three launchers, in comparison to older rides like Anaconda and Shockwave, is how far designers have come in executing elements well. On both of the former, the forces for the first halves are sometimes uncomfortable and gray-out style, but on all of the newer rides, the forces are applied perfectly. Anyway, I headed back to the front of the park and checked out Nickelodeon Central quickly. Looks like a nice kids area, and I'll have to check out the Nickelodeon Space Surfer in the future along, of course, with PKD's other new and modified flat rides.

It was starting to get late, and there was one coaster I just had to re-ride, so I headed to the back again. I made my way to HyperSonic with the Chariots of Fire theme playing in the air, under the white supports as a train roared past. Just then, I noticed that Drop Zone had broken down at the top again. I laughed when I heard a grandmother-aged woman commenting, "I wish I was stuck at the top, it would be a wonderful view." Not your stereotype. After about five minutes, it finally dropped.

Got in line, and most of the way through the first portion of it, the train failed to launch and a couple of ride attendents went out and talked to the riders, then the train was rolled back into the station. One of the people in line in front of me had been on Drop Zone during the first breakdown, and appearantly they had said that they would try to lower them back down, but that it may fall. Which it did. After both trains were tested several times each, HyperSonic XLC reopened. This problem had been caused by a lack of air pressure, appearantly.

I was at the front of my group again, so I got on then after a wait of several trains. HyperSonic was a pure blast, once again, and the perfect last ride of the day as I had to leave after that. After a couple lemonades and a look around a gift shop at the main gate, I exited the park for the day.

All-in-all, a great day at PKD. I had a blast, and I will be back. The waits weren't too long, staff was good, park was perfectly clean, rides were awesome, I got a front seat on every coaster without much additional waiting, and I was allowed to bring my camera on every ride with the exception of Volcano, so I'll have a load of new pictures for all of you soon. :)

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~ Blast Coaster | BlastCoaster@coaster-net.com | www.COASTER-net.com

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Sunday, June 1, 2003 8:25 PM
Very good TR! I must say that that's one of the best PKD TR's I've read so far. It's my home park, so I enjoy reading them.

The "quotes" said before the launch on FoF were indeed affiliated with the Outer Limits. The voice was actually the narrator of the show... You know the guy(alien) that says, "We control the horizontal and the vertical" Before the launch they used to dim the lights in the station and make the lights in the tunnel activate, but that changed after they dropped the whole Outer Limits thing :::sighs:::

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Sunday, June 1, 2003 8:34 PM
PKD is so cool. 3 launched coasters! :-)
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Wednesday, June 4, 2003 7:53 PM
Thanks! I was wondering about that, Coreo81. I had forgotten about the lights being dimmed, that was a cool effect while it lasted.

Yes, three launchers is truely an awesome collection of coasters in itself.

Can't wait to get back to PKD this year!

BTW, the pictures, especially the on-rides I took, turned out great. Scanner's not working at the moment, but I'll get them all online ASAP.

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~ Blast Coaster | BlastCoaster@coaster-net.com | www.COASTER-net.com

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