“And so it was written, “The crowds will arrive at noon””
Today, I made my third trip to PKI this year, [Footnote 1] as such I will try not to be as verbose as last time, but make no promises. Today, I had arranged transportation to the park with Rideman Park Transit. Mr. Althoff arrives shortly after 9, we exchanged pleasantries, then headed up to the park. While discussing the various details of the off-season and the upcoming season, I asked if he thought the park would be crowded. Dave indicated that the park would probably get crowded around noon.
A bit later we arrived at the park, and using the free parking pass that was issued to renewing season pass holders, we entered the park, and located a premium parking space that did not have any restrictions, or extra fees, attached. It took a few minutes to carefully stow away any metal objects. (Bulky key rings, the Cross Pen I didn’t realize I brought with me, and other items you would rather not loose to the rides.)
After a few false starts, we headed up to the metal detectors. Since my last visit the park has finished up the security fencing separating the secure from non-secure zones, including the exit gates, which are opened at the end of the park day. They made just one mistake. When they added fencing between the metal detectors, they moved the tables further back into the secure zone. On opening weekend it was easy to place your camera into the red plastic bowl then walk through the detector. Now the table is pushed sufficiently back that you have to HAND your items to the attendant. Are we the only people a little worried about trying to support the weight of bulky video cameras in little red bowls, being held onto by the attendant with one hand?
Also, while the park installed 24 metal detectors at the front gate, only a small handful of those were actually in use today. Fortunately there was not a major build up, maybe a half dozen people in each lane. While waiting in line to go through the checkpoint, Dave let out a laugh, and I of course inquired what was so funny. Dave mentioned that I should look closely at the belt barriers as I had probably seen them before. I looked at the logo on the belt, and it read “Aeroporte De Roma” (Airport of Rome), and it is quite true that did travel via the Airport of Rome, Italy less than 18 months ago.
Eventually, we enter the park, where we realize that we have missed the walk back. Not to worry, we start to head up International Street where we are greeted by the Keyhole Camera Crew. (Gee, what a surprise) In recent years, a cute little bit of turnaround-is-fair-play has erupted as Keyhole Photo people who ask “Will you stop for a quick photo?” find themselves on the business end of a camera. That was cute or awhile, I have now taken the tact of just pretending like the Keyhole Photo people don’t even exist. So as I walk down International Street, Dave is taking the former approach. We regroup and find John and Carrie not too far down the street. From them we learn that Brad has joined the walk back, and that they would like to go ride Delirium. Fine, we reverse directions, double back through the front gate plaza, and start towards the Action Zone where we have to do battle with another army of Keyhole Photo people. Man they are annoying.
Proving how indecisive we are, we spot the large group of guests gathered at the Action Zone rope, and decide to move away from the action, to something that we can have some fun on until the crowds work their way around to it. Something like the Flying Eagles. So again we double back, and this time we purposely contradicted natural human behavior and walk up the left side of International Street. [Footnote 2]. This is, of course, to avoid another Keyhole Photo Ambush.
We walked up International Street, circled around the Freedom Tower, and headed down the hill to find a much smaller group assembled at the rope by the Antique Cars. This left us a choice it is pretty much equi-distant to get to the Flying Eagles by walking left or right, so we choice the less popular left hand turn, and headed to the Flying Eagles.
Let’s face it, there are not that many people who enter an amusement park, and immediately race to ride the Flying Skooters. We arrived in time to have a private ride before the rest of the people arrived. The classic Bisch-Rocco ride needs no introduction in enthusiast’s circles, except to say that the ride at PKI is highly regarded. The Flying Eagles, as one may suspect, is a patriotic themed ride, with a sky blue center, with red, white and blue lights. The ride tubs are also sky blue, with a big Eagle’s head on the front, and red/white/blue accents. The ride has had this theme since at least 1976, when it was rethemed into the “Spirit of’76” for the nation’s bicentennial. A question for park historians would be as to what the ride looked like prior to 1976. I have a reproduction postcard from Coney Island, which shows the Flying Skooters with a drastically different paint job.
As I recall the Eagle, I am reminded of a graceful, majestic bird, soaring proudly high in the sky. My temporary moment of meditation is disrupted when I look at the pilot’s who have climbed aboard these Eagles, myself included. I realize that the flight patterns of these eagles is going to be anything but smooth, graceful and majestic. Okay, maybe the unoccupied eagles will be graceful and majestic. The ride started, and as expected very turbulent flights were the rule. We rode a couple times, then Brad caught up with us, then we rode several more times, for almost an hour. We then decided that perhaps we should try some of the parks other rides.
We headed for the Vortex, and with a very minimal wait, found ourselves in the back car. Vortex is running just a bit rougher than it used to, but it does contain the “Back Seat Float: on the first drop. We exited the ride and after a brief delay, headed to Flight of Fear.
Flight of Fear received some minor changes this year. As you probably know, the story line of this themed attraction involves a visit to Ft. Cooper of the Bureau of Paranormal Activity where a UFO has allegedly been secretly taken for further investigation. Your role is that of a press reporter whose experience starts with walking from the gates of this installation, across a courtyard and to a press briefing tent, which happens to be next to a real live helipad [Footnote 3]. You then enter a dark mysterious hallway which leads into the hangar containing the UFO. A pre-show sets the stage, and after making your way through the hangar you climb into the UFO, tour a couple rooms, and through some twist of fate find yourself strapped into some type of spacecraft which is launched from the UFO on a dizzying trip through the cosmos, I want to say almost to the Outer Limits. Your spacecraft lands safely in another part of Ft. Cooper where you carefully make your way down a windy hallway outside to the courtyard, where there is a booth selling on-ride photos.
Now for the changes. The most drastic change is in the on ride photos. It seems through the magic of digital photography, no matter where you sit in the train, your picture will show you in the front seat. The back seat riders have been replaced by aliens. It’s a reel cool effect, too bad the photos of the human riders did not turn out well enough to warrant purchasing a copy. Not the camera systems fault, we just did not take a good photo. Another change is a new announcement in the courtyard, a safety announcement “Please follow the instructions of base personnel” cleverly disguised as a message from Major Trenton. I also think there are a few more different color lights in the big room, and the UFO rumble has returned. All in all, the park has managed to take was really a nearly unrideable mess and has transformed it to an outstanding fun coaster. I can’t stress enough how much more fun this ride is with the lap bars. Just one small minor nitpick. This may be the only domestic ‘military installation’ whose main flagpoles at the main access point stand unused, particularly on a bright sunny day. We won’t get into the special intruder-friendly barbed wire they have.
We exited Ft. Cooper, headed down the main midway some more, and decided to leave the Racer for later. We looked over the progress at Bubba Gump, looked at the suckers playing Cyber Sez (Wow, somebody actually is playing it), and headed for Adventure Express.
Adventure Express is the parks mine ride. Not much of a wait here, and oddly enough the seats with the longest lines were in the middle. We took seats near the back, and proceeded on our train ride to doom. It’s a fast fun mine ride with some interesting lateral forces. I hope theming enhancements go beyond turning the volume knob for the “Creaking Timbers Lift Hill” up several decibles. After returning safely from out Adventure, we decided to head out t the car to drop jackets, unwanted electronic gear, loose other undesireables, and get a soft drink.
We headed to the quickly but carefully to the exit gate, got a big old sploth a green goo [Footnote 4] on our hands, found the exit gate in the security barrier fence, and headed for the car. While at the car we notice the new paint job on the parking trams, then we notice a big river of cars pouring into the parking area. We look up at the big marquee clock, NOON. Dave reminds us that "The crowds will arrive at noon" We return a short time later after having enjoyed some cold drinks and other details. John and Carrioe spli off from us. We return to the metal detectors, get rescanned, and soon reenter the park through the reentry gate. We decide to head to Delirium.
Seeing that Delirium has a full queue house, and backing up into the path, that Brad and I would have a sandwich while in line, while Dave went with a giant pretzel. The food prices at the Stunt Crew Grill are really excessive. Particularly when, as we later learned the same food items cost LESS at Preston T. Tuckers down in Coney Mall. For example I had the 1/3lb.Bacon Cheeseburger, with a menu price that I want to say is $5.39 or $5.69. The same sandwich at the Coney Mall eatery is only $4.39. The Coney Mall eatery offers to add fries and a soft drink for $3.00 more, Stunt Crew Grill did not. It’s one thing to get racked over the coals on an overpriced sandwich, it is yet another to find the same sandwich located elsewhere in the park for $1.00 cheaper. And no fries were not part of the deal at Stunt Crew Grill. I believe that since Stunt Crew Grill is located in a more popular part of the park, the park feels they can charge higher prices on the same food items. Anyway we enjoy our way overpriced sandwiches and join the Delirium line.
The Delirium line extends just back to the soft drink machines, but with all the queues open in the queue house. About 20-30 minutes later we were to board. I may be confused but I thought I heard the operator say specifically to enter the ride area in a single file line, and to fill in each seat in turn starting with seat 50. Similar to what they do on Drop Zone. In reality what happens is the gate opens and some people race to preferred seats, others go straight to the loose article footlockers, and such that what should be a perfectly smooth loading patterns turns into a mess when groups now can’t sit together because someone else plunks themselves down in the wrong seat. I gently ran the bottom of my shoe against the metal flooring surface and while the surface is anti-skid, it will not be good on bare feet.
Soon the Delirium ride starts, and for the 11th time, WOW. This ride is SO much fun, so intense, so delirious. Finally a fun flat ride that I’m sure will prove to be popular. I can’t say enough about the float time, the sudden changes of being face up to face down, the real odd sensations as you reach the top of the swings, the foot chopper effects. They really have a winner here. I noted they are still having some problems with the mechanical floor.
We exit Delirium, and look around Action Zone. Face/Off and Drop Zone have long slow moving lines, so we head back to Top Gun. On the way to Top Gun, I noted a sign painted on the ticket shack for Extreme Skyflyer (a Skycoaster adventure), that stated that it was only $10 per person. I don’t know if that was some sort of early bird special, or pre-season special, but at least for a while its only $10. Is this the first sign that the Skycoaster fad is nearing an end, or is it that most PKI guests are local and have already done it once, so the demand does not warrant $20 and $25 fees.
Anyway, on to Top Gun where I notice some slight themeing changes in the tunnel. Top Gun is die for a ride theming overhaul. The line is practically non-existent, so we head to the back seat, enjoy a fast, and intense ride on an Arrow Suspended. Top Gun is one of the greater Arrow Suspended coasters but it is so short. We compensated for it by taking two rides. The hinge like pivot that allows the car to swing out to the sides was making some ‘nails-on-blackboard’ noises, but nothing like a couple years back on opening day.
We were then exiting Top Gun, when we noticed that Son of Beast was running two trains. This was not to be expected as we thought the second train was receiving some modifications which would sideline it till June. We went to investigate. Upon walking up the exit ramp, we can see that they have two trains on, that the trains seem to have all the thematic decals on them, and unfortunately that they still have the same lap bar. Based on our rides earlier in the season, neither of us were eager to ride Son of Beast, so we skipped it, and wound up heading toward Scooby Doo instead.
We arrive at the Haunted Castle, and immediately notice that the park has started to reduce congestion in this part of the midway. On the ride side of the midway a separate "Stroller Parking" area has been established and today it was crammed full of strollers. Less strollers cramming the midway, This is PKI so expect the parking meters to be installed for next week. This doesn't entirely eliminate the big traffic jam. The key problem is that exiting riders are expected to walk through the line of guests waiting to ride, then cross the midway jammed with people going to or from the kids area to get to the on ride photo booth on the other side of the walkway. The on ride photo booth itself does not help by having rope barriers that narrow the already jammed midway even more. Shame such an easy fix. To be real cheap about it all they had to do was route the queue towards the apparently unused Enchanted Theater, down towards the old theater waiting area, and have so forth. We'll see how bad this traffic jam gets on a busy Saturday in the middle of the summer.
So we wait for about 45 minutes to ride Scooby. I notice the wallpaper is already peeling off (not entirely on its own, sad to say) and in the queue house it seems either people were talking louder or the volume was turned down lower. Pleasing level, then we made our way to the ride vehicle. It seems the park is unlocking the lap bar sooner than they were two weeks ago, making it a lot easier to change riders. Now it is fair to say that all three of us are competitive, and It also seems that Brad and Dave conspired to put me in the middle of the car. Let me go on record to say the middle seat is the worst. The two end riders have a big advantage in that as the car pivots and rotates they get first access to all the scenes, especially if they are leaning forward in the seat shooting targets in the scene ahead of and/or behind the car. I considered myself fortunate to eek out 840 in the center seat (still off the chart), but Dave got 1230, and Stormtrooper Brad got 1800 after claiming his gun did not work. Stormtrooper Brad goes psycho in that ride moving and shooting the gun at demented robot speed. We also agreed that for some reason the targets in the Great Hall are a lot harder to score than all the other scenes. I noticed one subtle change in the ride, maybe it was planned all along, but they have added a sign right where it takes your on ride photo to "Aim Fright Lights Here" Could this be in response to people taking on-ride-photos with guns pointed at each other (specifically heads) or suicide poses. They also have a pop up stunt at the right before the camera flashes.
Having ridden Scooby, we then go and ride the original Scooby Doo, now known as the Beastie. The line is manageable, with two trains running. We thought we were all lined up but managed getting split up anyway. I noticed a hint of air on the drop off the second turn, but the brake on the third turn killed the fun. We exit the ride, have a couple words with Dan as we pass the on-ride photo booth, then proceed toward Reptar.
Reptar was valleyed on my last visit, so this would be my first ride of the year. After about a 15 minute wait, we get into the way to small and cramped station, where due to its inherent problems we eek out the shortest lines, which are for the front two rows. A lot of safety warnings have been added to the ride about not extending your legs out to touch the seatback in front of you. I'm sure there is a story behind that somewhere. Seatback decals, lift hill sign, recorded announcement, they really want to get the point across. We had a short but fun ride on Reptar.
Now that we have seen the Spongebob movie in the Action FX Theatre, we now know what the Krusty Krab is supposed to be. We walk up to the booth, and are surprised to learn we can have a hot dog, but no Kraby Patties. Brad tries to order one anyway, and is informed the booth sold the last one 10 minutes ago. Shucks. Still, the park, I think, is missing a great marketing synergy tie in by not having kiddie hamburgers with a pickle, called a Kraby Pattie at this stand.
We leave that food stand, and head to Huckleberry Dairy where we have Smurfcones. We were still very clear to order them by the name Smurfcone, even if we did have to clue the attendant in that we wanted the blue ice cream. We enjoy our Smurf Ice Cream (is it made with real Smurfs?) then head into Rivertown. We walk past the water attractions (hey the electronic marquee had just told us its only 58 degrees out, funny it seems a lot warmer), we walked past Wings, and got to lower Rivertown just as the train arrived. We were not particularly interested in the train ride but noticed something odd. PKI has two trains, traditionally the blue engine runs with the red cars, and the green engine runs with the green cars. Today they had the blue engine pulling the green cars.
We explored further and came to Tomb Raider. We explored the line for Tomb Raider and decided not to wait. TR:TR is one of those rides with a real slow stop and start type line that is just not a pleasant thing to wait in. Which brought us around to the Beast.
We entered the old Beast entrance and noted the new extremely tacky, hideous looking Gold Pass Walk on Wednesday entrance. Did I mention this thing looked hideous? Not only does it block off access to the square seat walls, it just looks plain wrong. I suspect further that it may cause a fire hazard in that it effectively cuts off the emergency exit by the height check stand. The emergency exit in Queue House 1 has been padlocked shut for years, and is even labeled "Not an Exit". Even if they hop the rail, or have the presence of mind in a panic situation to open the gate between the new queue and the old queue, which you have to open TOWARDS you or it will block the new exit path, you go up a short ramp and then either have to jump the chain link fence or walk all the way around the (potentially burning) wooden building to get to an exit. The emergency exits in queue areas 2 and 3 are still intact. May God never let that old drinks stand in the middle of the queue area or Queue House 1 catch fire as I predict the lack of clear useable emergency exits will cause needless deaths. Does this city learn NOTHING from the Beverly Hills Supper Club, do they learn NOTHING from the Station in Rhode Island.
(In case you hadn't figured out proper emergency exits are a big pet peeve of mine) We won't get into the Scooby exit doors that do not have crash bars on them. Look at White Water Canyon as another queue whose "Fire Evacuation Plan" must include "Pray to God Security gets there with a key on time" How does the park get away with padlocked emergency exits. Okay, I'm done ranting for now.
We thankfully survive the fire trap of a queue area, and after about a 30-40 minute wait get on Beast. Beast is running about the same as last time, which is to say still way overbraked. The second and third trim brakes are set so hard they pitch front car riders up towards the headrest. The only part of this ride that runs remotely like it is supposed to is the final helix. We exit Beast and head up into Coney.
Once in Coney, we turn down a long looking Flying Eagles queue, and instead ride the "Troika Troika Troika" (Look at the sign for a similar ride up at Cedar Point sometime) The Troika is another flat ride at PKI that gives a fun ride. While waiting for the Troika there was some disagreement on which way the center turret should rotate. I'll leave it to those with video replay to give a final ruling.
We walk all the way to other end of Racer. For sake of brevity lets just say that while some minor air exits, its nothing like this ride is capable of, as evidenced by rides in the mid 1980's.. First we rode the forwards track, exited through was looked like a park security convention, then rode the backwards track. I must say the backwards side runs a lot smoother than the forwards side.
After Racer we take a closer look at the Bubba Gump construction. There is a sign telling you where the next closest major food stand is. Unfortunately there is no sign telling you where to find Brats, Metts, or any other food remotely German. Let me get this straight, there is NO German food in a big German themed section of the park. What is wrong with this picture?
We then leave Oktoberfest and decide to ride to the top of a French inspired tower, this scale model designed by the Swiss, and probably built by Americans in an American theme park. No wonder its called International Street. We ride to the top of the Freedom Tower. I had taken a lot of photos up here last time, so I merely went to enjoy the view. We talked a lot about how the park looked aesthetically. Take for instance, Royal Fountain. Royal Fountain has been lovingly restored and looks so good you would swear it was 1972 again. The International Showplace has received a fresh coat of Freedom Tower Green paint. The covered up stage has been revealed, and it looks like the work was primarily of a restorative nature. Dave went on to point out that the buildings the were original to the park have intricate roofs. It seems that the original structures were planned with the Freedeom Tower in mind, so they had to look good from way up high. This does not seem to be a concern with the newer structures. According to 1981 photographs, the roof of the Dark Ride building even had a Compass Rose painted on it one time for the benefit of people on top of Tower. The park looks a lot better from up high now than it has in a while, but there is still a ways to go.
We exited the tower, again with the same tower operator who has a delightful sense of humour, and proceeded to Preston T. Tuckers for ice water. It was here that I noticed the price discrepancies that I talked about earlier. We then took one more spin on Vortex, then took several more spins on the Flying Eagles. Great Aerial fun. Towards close, we thought we would snag one more Delirium ride, but alas the ride had decided to go to bed early for the night. It is always wise to expect new riders to behave somewhat erratically for a little while, as they become used to carrying full loads of riders day in and day out.
We then exited the park. PKI has taken further steps to alleviate the traffic jam at the exit. On the first week everybody had to exit out a real tiny opening to the side of the metal detector area. While those gated exits still exist, now a much wider opening has been created. Big signs have been posted pointing you to the exits, and now they let you walk out through the disused metal detectors. They look pretty solid, and I'm sure it won't hurt matters to give people 24 more exit lanes. As I left I noticed something I had not seen since the Vatican Museum in Vatican City. These metal detectors have a string of LED lights down the side that claim to be able to locate where on the subjects body the metal is. Great idea, I wonder why I haven't seen the airports go to this level of sophistication.
We then exit the parking lot, and have nice leisurely coaster fanatic banquet at the Outback.
 Including the Delirium Photo Shoot, on April 4th, which I did not write a TR for.
 Natural human behavior is to keep right, or walk down the right side of International Street. The parks original planners considered this, and therefore located the will-call window, the information booth, the original ATM the restrooms, the convenience corner, what used to be the camera rental and film shop, and the bakery as you kept to the right as you entered the gate. As you left the park, you first pass the Funnel Cakes Stand, the park’s super-duper major gift shops, the stroller return, and the lockers as you proceeded out of the park on the opposite side of the street. Textbook Disney planning, based on engrained human behavior to “Keep Right” Which makes me wonder if amusement venues in England are optimized for guests to “Keep Left”. It should be noted that Disney then tried to even crowd distribution by the infamous “Left Lane Theory” where they printed in all the official guide books the “Insider Secret” that “Given a choice, most people will go right, so go left to find shorter waits and less crowds” The park was so successful with this PR move, that Disney’s traffic patterns have reversed, and its seems to be a good idea to go right at a Disney park now.
 For the parks helicopter tour attraction.
 The re-entry hand stamp – The park uses the so-called ‘magic ink’ that is supposed to be visible for a short time (if at all) when you first get it, disappear completely, then can only reappear through the help of ultraviolet light. PKI uses a variant of the ink, which can still be seen by the naked eye hours after its application. My sneaking suspicion is that this is in response to guests who either do not think they really got stamped or are afraid the stamp would wash off.
All who think Mean Streak needs a match taken to it say I.
*** This post was edited by coasterphil 4/28/2003 8:44:32 PM ***
Great details and I loved reading the TR. I'm wondering if Oktoberfest will be completely faded out within a season or two. It was nice meeting you and Dave A. and getting to talk for a few with Brad and the two of you. I hope to see you around different times this season and have fun next weekend if you were going to do the northern Ohio openings as well!
Me: "Did you get to ride Son of Beast yet today?"
DA: "Why?!" LOL :)
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