"Limited Operations also means Limited Crowds"
Today was the start of a weekend long coaster trek centered around Stark Raven Mad. Due to Jerry's good fortune at the airline check in counter, we wound up arriving at PKI at about the time Jerry thought he would be picking me up.
Upon entering the troll plaza, we used my parking pass and received some paperwork. Included was the usual security notice, the other was two or three copies of the parks apology for "Limited Operations". Limited Operations means that may of the happy staff members that usually staff the park are still in school, so there are just fewer park staff members to go around. Recently, PKI has started to publish a list of those rides that will be open on a particular day. We perused the schedule of operations for the day and decided that enough rides would be open to justify our visit.
We next approached the front gate, and had no problems getting through the security checkpoint, then proceeded to the admission gate. Recently, PKI has invested heavily in an electronic web-based ticketing system where guests can purchase and print park tickets at home. The park even offers this option with no service fees, unlike its web-based mail order ticket system. A recent review of the PKI website shows the e-Tickets to retail for $32.99, an approximate $10 savings off of tickets purchased at the park. This leads me to believe that perhaps the park is trying to reduce congestion and save some labor costs by minimizing the amount of tickets purchased at the park.
I mention the e-Ticket system as Jerry has an e-ticket. I can report that the admission process is seamless and that the e-Ticket printouts go through the ticket scanner just as easily as regular tickets and passes. Once inside the park we try to dodge an ambush by the Keyhole Photo staff. I mean really once you express that you have no interest in a front gate photo, why won't these people leave you alone.
We head to our first ride of the day, Delirium, which is a Huss Giant Frisbee. As we approach the ride I note that the park has added not one but two tests seats next to the entrance. I find it curious that the park places test seats on rides that I, a larger rider have no trouble with, but does not offer test teats on rides which I do struggle to ride.
We enter the Delirium queue, and quickly have to dodge a group of school age kids backtracking there way out of the queue whining about a two-hour wait. Now I have ridden Delirium several times this year, and thus know that the queue house for the ride can't contain a two-hour queue. I estimated about a 4 cycle wait, thus the ride would have to break down for half an hour after each ride for the dreaded two hour wait comment to come true. The line started just at the end of the covered section where the queue passes under the ride path, and only one of the three queue house switchbacks were open. Past experience has taught me that the ride clears one of the switchbacks in two cycles. With only 1 in use I could safely estimate a 3-4 cycle wait, which is what happened. Soon enough we were boarding the ride carefully following our leader and not skipping any seats. What more can I say about Delirium that I have not already said in past trip reports. It's fast, its intense, it’s a crowd pleaser, its got strange interesting forces. All in all it’s a great flat ride.
From Delirium we next headed to look at the queue for Face/Off. We were delighted to find the queue only stretched back to the yellow canvas tunnel under the vertical loop. We waited the extra time for an end seat, choosing the seat at the midway end. I noted the station to contain several coaster statistic signs, I was hoping that these would be a common feature on all the coasters, but I suppose they are just a Math and Science day holdover. Our time to ride came, and we experienced a smooth ride on a Vekoma coaster. Someone pinch me I must be dreaming. So smooth it didn't seem quite as intense as it used to be, maybe I am building some tolerance to it. Face/Off is the parks Vekoma Invertigo, a much more successful take on inverted Boomerang coaster than the lawn ornaments the Six Flags chain purchased.
From Face/Off we proceeded to Drop Zone, while noting that Congo Falls would be closed today. Drop Zone was also using only one switchback in its queue house. So after a relatively short wait I was soon finding Seat 24. As you may recall from my last visit, I have a real struggle getting myself into this ride, primarily due to the seat belt design. On opening day, in order to ride this I had to have a ride operator shove hard on the shoulder bar, and then the seatbelt still just made it into the receptacle by millimeters, and the belt was very taut. Today, as soon as I sat down I lowered the shoulder bar and noticed that the seatbelts had been replaced. The older belts had automotive style buckles, while the new ones have the Intamin styte buckles. This IS an improvement for me as I am now able to lower the OTSR and get the belt fastened all by myself.
Soon we were spiraling our way up the tower, took the customary look to learn the parking lot was very empty, then rose straight to the top, paused for a few moments dramatic pause, then came freefalling back to earth. Wow, what a rush, and even some air. At the end of the ride I discover I have a new problem. Yes I know that to release the buckles you push both metal tabs down, and I have no problem doing that on Millennium Force, yet here since the belt is tight, that means more pressure must be placed on the release tabs. After a stronger than me person, or merely a person with better leverage arrived they were able to release my belt. Geez, I used to not be able to self-load, now I can't seem to self-unload.
After Drop Zone, we headed back towards Son of Beast, but on the way I noticed something unusual at the Extreme Skyflyer. The park is apparently trying a new pricing scheme. This year the pricing structure seems really simple "$10 per Flyer". Jerry and I approached the ticket booth and found this to be the case. Gone is the reservation system and souvenir tickets. Now you hand over your $10 and your cash register receipt is the ticket.
We head over to see no line at the gate, and are soon admitted to the harness shelter. After being properly harnessed and given the safety lecture, we proceed to the line for the ride. The new pricing structure has put the ride in the price range of those who would not pay the previous high prices, it also causes a steady flow of riders, and a disproportionate number of solo flights. Interesting dynamics, but I am sure in the end the steady stream of flyers will prove more financially sound than the stop-and-go trickle the park seemed to have in past years. After watching three flights we were invited to the rising platform. This would be Jerry's 27th Skycoaster ride, and my 8th. Platofrm going up, yada yada, flyers switch places, yada yada, lock arms, yada yada, you will fall forward, yada, yada, Beaners, Ripcord ready to fly. Not much longer we were making our way up to the 153' launch tower. This time we elected Jerry to pull the cord, as I had done the dirty deed the last time we flew together (the 300' model at Old Town). My last Skycoaster ride was the 100' toy skycoaster at Extreme World. Since Jerry was pulling, this meant I could have the demented fun of not knowing quite when you would be making a high dive. The more I ride Skycoaster the less the dive gets to me, let alone, the swing action which seems to get mundane. I mean my first Skycoaster ride I was screaming bloody murser, life in slow motion, life passing before eyes, I'm gonna die screaming. Maybe it was just a bad idea to ride Skycoaster right after the 300' Drop Zone.
That is not to say we didn't have an interesting ride. At the end of the ride, it is my opinion that the crew raised the landing pole up to us too soon. Jerry grabbed the big loop, then I grabbed it which put us in a tailspin, so now you have us spinning, the landing cable did nothing to slow us down, we dropped it upon command, swung some more time while spinning until the operators grabbed hold of our legs to finally get us stopped. Hey another spin ride at PKI! We then got un-harnessed, declined to watch our on-ride video, and headed to the water fountains. It seems that Skycoaster's make me thirsty. I have heard this referred to as the human burrito effect as the flight suit gets pretty hot feeling inside.
Properly watered, we continued onto Son of Beast. You may recall for my most recent report that I mentioned that unless changes were made I would not ride this ride again. Today the reason for my ride was that the new passenger restraint system was installed in one of the trains. The line was not too bad, just barely reaching outside the station, but with the one train operation it still took about 40 minutes. It was not all bad as we could watch the mechanics on the transfer table replacing the lap bars in the other train. While in the SOB line, we had a group ask me if I knew what time it was, I gave the Dave Althoff, Jr answer of "Yes!". Imagine my reaction when I was referred to as being rude, even though I answered their question. Anyway, sooner or later we were in line for seat 5.2, a non-wheel seat, and not in the back car. I commented to Jerry that if I see the old lap bars in the train I was walking through without riding. Jerry commented that that was not very sportsmanlike and took steps to prevent a ride walk-through.
The train did arrive, and it did have the new lap bars. Not that much difference, they seem to have taken the same path as Gerstlauer by making the lap bar uprights flat iron instead of rounded tubing. The extra room they gave they took away with extra padding on the lapbar uprights. The floor has not changed at all. The end result is that I was pinned in and not able to move my legs at all. The good news is that now instead of being pressed into bare steel, they were at least buried in soft padding. What I noticed is that I did not get my legs beat up the way I did last ride. The ride has risen from "Positively Pathetic" to "Merely Mediocre" Still a big waste.
From Son of Beast, we noted Top Gun to be closed as expected, and made our way to Oktoberfest where both Viking Fury and Adventure Express were closed, but that inane CyberSez thing was open. I did note that the Bubba Gump building seemed to be coming along nicely.
We entered Coney Mall and took an almost no wait, 2 train ride on Racer. Only the forwards side was open, and it was trying but not having much luck at delivering slight hints of airtime.
After Racer, we noted the Monster was closed, and proceeded to Flight of Fear. The queue was just back to the door to Hangar 18, but none of the extra queue maze was in use. With two trains it was not a bad wait, and soon we were waiting to board the back seat of the Flight of Fear train. I did note that the loose articles are getting out of hand on this ride. I mean if someone made me Grand Poobah Over Rides at PKI I would be installing lockers outside the Flight of Fear building and NO loose articles go into the FoF building. If you get all the way to the ride platform, well guess what you get to go right outside and wait in line again after securing your items, for not following my royal edict. Then again I would also ban backpacks from going past the metal detection security point, so maybe it’s a good thing I am merely a park guest.
We soon boarded the ride, and while I thought I had the buckle complexly over the latch it would not lock. The ride operator was able to recite some magical spell which caused the seatbelt to fasten. A spell that did not involve further tightening of my lap bar. Flight of Fear is one of the parks great success stories. The park managed to take a near unrideable piece of crap from Premier and after six years, turn it into one of the best coasters in the park. Which means we have 3 more years until they get SOB to actually perform like it should. A fast fun intense Flight of Fear ride ensued. I was so happy to have only the lapbars, after being recently reminded on Speed: The Ride, how awful those OTSR's were.
After that fine Flight of Fear ride, I showed Jerry the new on ride photos they are selling this year, the ones where you ride with the aliens. We then exited Fort Cooper where I noticed this faux military installation is still not flying its flags. We then passed by a closed Wave Swinger, I showed Jerry a burgee that looks quite like one I purchased for home use. It’s a very distinctive burgee. At least two just like it can be found at PKI. One in the plaza in front of the Skeeball building, the other in front of the convenience store on International Street. For those wondering what a burgee is, I guess you are going to have to look at the footnote to this TR.
I mentioned to Jerry that Spongebob in 3D is open. Jerry showed no interest in experiencing that attraction, so we bypassed it and rode Vortex instead. Vortex was nearly a walk on, and we walked on to the rear seat. The one with a great airtime moment on the first drop. Having recently ridden Canyon Blaster at the Adventuredome really pointed out to me how rough this ride is. Vortex is a fine ride through the vertical loops and up to the mid course brakes, then the ride runs quite rough, and frankly slower than it should.
We finished our ride on Vortex, and decided the line for Flying Eagles was a bit too long. We headed on down to Beast. Beast was another near walk on. Oh it had a line, but the line was more of a walk through the long mostly disused queue area. We took a back seat ride on Beast. Poor ride, it has a great coaster inside waiting to come out, but now its just overbraked and not really that much fun. It does have a redeeming feature in the final helix is just a wild and out of control as ever. We rode the Beast, then headed down to Tomb Raider.
Tomb Raider is one of those attractions I don't have much of a queue tolerance for. When I noted the line for Tomb Raider was inside the tomb, we joined the line. The park still has not put a gate in the final switchback of the queue house, which means that Tomb Raider riders have a choice between gymnastics or aerobic exercise to ride Tomb Raider. Most choose the gymnastics. Tomb Raider is a ride that has lockers out front, has a posted no loose articles policy, has a person out front supposedly checking and yet a lot of loose articles make their way into the building. Somehow I don't think bouncing basketballs were intended as part of the theming package. (In my Grand Poobah mode the pouches on the ride, and the loose article storage room would be removed and a zero tolerance "no loose itmes" policy would be enacted. Besides speeding up loading, it would increase locker revenue. By providing guests with a free way of storing their junk, the park is loosing out on some easy revenue.)
After a bit of a wait, we eventually make it into the pre-show room. At first I thought the pre-show movie had been abandoned, but later realized that it must start exactly when the ride starts (or hits a certain point in its cycle) so that the movie ends just as the automatic doors into the ride area open and the ride is ready to be loaded. We take our seats and even though I am in the middle row, I notice my OTSR is positively drenched. "I have a bad feeling about this" The ride starts, and I do think it flips more than it ever has, and as expected in the way-longer-than-it-needs-to-be lava scene I got a good dousing of ice cold lava.
We proceeded to take a walking tour of Rivertown, then entered the Nickelodeon area. We took a walk on ride of Reptar in the back row. I think the back row of Reptar provides a very good ride for a family coaster. We then passed Ghoster Coaster which was down for some reason. We decided to skip Beastie: The Kiddie Woodie With A Trim Brake, and instead headed directly to Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle. To my amazement Haunted Castle was so haunted that it didn't seem to have many riders. Upon entering the indoor queue area I see the problem I predicted did develop. The indoor queue area for Scooby is not adjustable, All riders must go through all switchbacks. Really, with this size crowd they should have directed all guests through the "Walk on Wednesday" entrance. Instead they would rather have guests pole vaulting the queue rails.
I did note that an emergency chain was dropped in the queue area which helped somewhat, except there is no gate by the final turn in the queue, so you still have to jump at least one rail. Soon, we were boarding a dark ride car. I had my worst ever Scooby Ride in terms of score, worse yet Jerry beat me. I guess that's fair I was able to outscore him on his local Sally dark ride. One of these days I will actually try to figure out the story line. That might take me getting a car with a busted Fright Light however.
Upon exiting Scooby, I realized we finished a lap of the park. I thought about heading to the cooler in the car for cold drinks, but with less than two hours of park operation left, that would have just been too time consuming. We started a second lap with a second Delirium ride, this time with a slightly shorter queue, and through some odd coincidence got exactly the same seats we had earlier, we then took another ride on Drop Zone. This time Drop Zone was a walk on, we rode, and I managed to have seat belt release problems again. From Drop Zone we saw that Face/Off was a total walk on.
We walked over to Face/Off and took two walk on rides, one in each end seat. I think the end seat near the control booth is more intense than the one at the midway end. We then decided to try to get one more Flight of Fear ride. We arrived at Flight of Fear to find the ride closed early, but we did take rides both on the Backwards Racer, which was now open, as well as the Monster. I did not get anywhere near an acceptable amount of spin action on Monster. At the conclusion of the Monster ride Jerry did set foot in the Video Arcade.
We proceeded to the back of the park, snagged another ride on Vortex, then took two rides on Flying Eagles. My first ride was really a warm up ride and I just got a couple minor snaps. My second ride I was really in the Zone and had a very turbulent flight. I love it. Graceful soaring Eagle theme, yeah right.
We finished me the night with two rides on Beast, One in the back seat, another in seat three. After that we took the walk up to the front gate, gathered some souvenir park maps, headed out to our car, grabbed a dinner at Steak N Shake, then went to the Dave's Dominion Resort Hotel. Tomorrow we would start with Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.
Footnote to this TR: A Burgee is a type of twin-tailed pennant. The State of Ohio uses one as its State flag.
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