Where: Paramount’s Kings Island, Kings Mills OH
When: Wednesday, June 28 – 10am to 9:15pm (early closing)
Who: Myself and Michele
Weather: Hot, low humidity
Crowd: Light to moderate
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Arrival: We used all day Tuesday as a leisurely travel day from Eureka, MO, to Kings Mills, OH. This trip, as with most of our trips, we were not booking hotels ahead, just finding what we could as we went. As we neared Cincinnati, Michele was checking the AAA travel guide and calling ahead on the cell phone to see what places had rooms. Every place we called was full. With few other options left, we checked at Kings Mills Resort and Conference center. We were a bit leery of this because of a less than spectacular stay last year, but they had room, so we thought we would give it another try.
They have a weird policy there… Phone reservations get the AAA discount, in person reservations don’t… so we booked our room via cell phone from our car as we were parked no more than 20 feet from their front door. Once the reservation was made, I got out of the car, walked into the lobby and checked in. Sounds odd, but it works. Suffice it to say that I am willing to chalk up last year to bad luck because the hotel and our room was okay. We bought our tickets for the park at the front desk. Not sure if we were going to do one or two days at the park, we bought “two day” tickets for $9 additional dollars each… rather risk losing out on $9 if we didn’t use the second day than buy another single day ticket if we decided to stay for a second day.
On Wednesday morning, after breakfast, we jumped in the car and drove the short distance to the park (less than a mile I believe). As stated in another TR… there was the option of a free shuttle, but I would rather pay the parking fee and have my own car handy (guess I’m just funny that way). We arrived a little before opening.
We quickly passed through security and then the entrance gates with our pre-purchased tickets and soon we were waiting inside the park for the different areas to open up. Looking at the map and seeing the layout, we decided to simply start at one side and work our way around full circle. So we headed off toward Action Zone…
Face Off: Two Rides, front seat (facing forward), back seat (facing backward). I’ve ridden Two Face at SFA, so I knew what to expect from an Invertigo. Better than their close cousin Boomerangs, but still nothing that gets me too excited. The line was a bit long since it was the first ride of the day and people were stacking up in the queue since it was still doing test runs a few minutes past 10. Once the first riders started cycling through, the line moved fairly fast despite the fact that by design these can only run one train. Rode it forward… thought “Yup… basically a suspended boomerang” and then decided to grab a second ride so I would not have to waste time when the line got longer later in the day.
Son of Beast (part 1): 1 ride, front seat. There it stood… that mountain of wood. The line was about a 20 minute wait because I figured if I was going to ride this monster, I was going to do it in the front seat. It’s reputation preceded it, so Michele sat this one out… she is not fond of rough coasters, and she heard the “horror stories”. When I climbed into the front seat, I wondered just what I was getting myself into when I was pinned in place by that unforgiving lap bar. What surprised me about SOB was that I really liked the layout. It looked “boring” from pictures, but I actually liked it. That was about all I liked though. The sheer roughness and brutality of this coaster outweighs any good points it may have. The loop is an anticlimactic gimmick as far as I am concerned. My head was hurting when the train returned to the station. I was glad to be walking down the exit ramp. The funny thing was that the lap bar pinned my Motorola walkie-talkie against my leg and pressed the “talk” button. When I caught back up with Michele, she told me that she could hear the rumbling of the track and the screams of the people as I rode.
In his book, The American Rollercoaster, Scott Rutherford wrote of wood coasters and said “Medium is a rare and wonderful thing”. The designers of SOB should have listened to this quote. The layout of the coaster would be good…. if it were cut down to a smaller scale… say about half its size and forget the loop. Also, some good rolling stock would help immensely. I was in no hurry to ride this (son of a) beast any time again soon.
Top Gun (part 1): 1 ride, 2nd car / 1st seat. 20 minute wait. This was my 3rd suspended. Iron Dragon at CP showed me nothing. Big Bad Wolf at BGE wins for setting and that great drop toward the creek, But PKI’s Top Gun gets points for the wildest swinging side to side. When the train hit the brakes, I swear the cars were swinging on to their sides. A fun ride, but nothing spectacular.
Delerium: 1 ride. 15 minute wait. Wow! That was all I could say until I could speak again. Then I was saying, “Oh my God, we’re all going to die!” The positive Gs when you are on the leading edge of the disk during a swing, and the negative Gs when you are on the trailing edge, flipped my stomach around more than I swear any coaster ever has. Great, incredible ride. My favorite of the park... possibly my favorite non coaster ride anywhere.
Picture time: Stopped by a booth where you can get your face digitally printed into pictures of movie characters, athletes, models, etc. The girl working there said “You can try it and see what it looks like. If you don like it, you don't have to buy it.” (that is the great thing about Digital photography… you don’t like, it, hit delete). I became Obi Wan Kenobi, Michele became Padme… Okay, so we are Star Wars geeks. Picture looked good… we bought it. Moving on.
Adventure Express: 2 rides, back seat. Walk ons. River King Mine Ride at SFStL held the title of my “favorite Mine Train” for all of two days. It lost the title when I rode Adventure express. The course is good in its own right. I especially liked how the train dropped out of the station with the lift at the end of the ride. The various tunnels (looking like some sort of ruined ancient temples) made things a bit more interesting. What could have been an anti climatic trip up the lift hill and back to the station was made much better by having it enclosed and themed like some sort of temple from some lost civilization. While nothing specifically said “Indiana Jones”, that was the implied theme with the Raiders of the Lost Ark score music in the station and the various lost temples the train traveled through, one of which contained the “remains” of an archeologist / treasure hunter that obviously found himself on the wrong end of a booby trap.
Lunch: Bubba Gump’s: Average and over priced park food… just what you would expect... nothing out of the ordinary here.
The Racer: 1 ride forward, front seat. 1 ride backward, last seat (well… actually the “front seat”, but since the train is backward… it’s the last seat… last up the lift, last over the top). Both walk ons. With The Racer, I’ve now ridden the three “cousins” of Paramount racing coasters. I have to say that Rebel Yell (PKD) is my favorite, Thunder Road (Carowinds) is second, and The Racer is third. I found the seats very tight for PTC cars… really pinned in there, could hardly breath. And I just found the ride to be rather on the slow side… nothing thrilling at all. The tight fit of the cars made any air that may have been there impossible to feel. This coaster may be given credit for sparking the “Coaster Renaissance” or the “Second Golden Age” in the 1970’s, but I still prefer its younger cousin at PKD.
It does get points for one thing. The Brady’s rode this coaster. Not sure if the cars were the originals (now retrofitted with new seats, bars and belts), but I can let myself think that they were and that I might have been sitting in the same seat as Marcia Brady once sat in. (Come on guys… admit it… if you grew up watching Brady Bunch reruns, you know you wanted Marcia).
Flight of Fear: 1 ride, 2nd car / 1st seat. 20 minute wait. Semi intense launched coaster in the dark… or semi dark. Not sure if I lost some weight since 2002, or if the restraints on PKI’s Flight of Fear are a little more forgiving than PKD’s, but I had a comfortable fit. It’s an okay ride, but not a favorite. Theming is cool, though one part was kind of funny. The video has a “government official” claiming that there are civilians in the compound and then they switch to a camera shot of the queue inside of the building. Problem is, the line was so light on this day that they showed and empty section of the queue. Also with the separate loading and unloading areas, it was kind of funny to see full trains shot out of the station, but empty trains return…. those aliens must have gotten ‘em! Heard some complain that it should have been totally dark in there. I disagree. The dim lights and the light effects enhance the head chopper effect of the twisted track. Total darkness would have just given you motion and movement with out the visuals.
Vortex: 2 rides. last car, 1st seat, and then front seat. Okay, can’t help it… I like loopers like this, simple as that. They might be dated, might be a little rough, but they are still fun. Some of the inversions and elements may hurt (especially when riding in back), but still can’t beat that surreal “slow motion” feeling while going through the cork screw. Just wish I was a little taller. The OTSR’s and my lower jaw are at about the exact same level when I sit in one of these trains, and the lateral forces batted me around a little… I felt like I went about three rounds with a welter-weight when the ride was over. Still, it was fun. Have to admit… probably my favorite coaster at PKI.
Italian Job: 1 ride, 20 minute wait. 1st seat, 2nd car (as assigned by the ops). Okay.. so it has two launches… so it has some effects… so it has a nice little run through a very dark enclosed section… I’m glad my wait was only 20 minutes, it’s just not worth many more. Okay coaster… fun coaster… but no where near a favorite. Now that I have the “credit” were I to return to PKI, would only ride it if the wait was short.
The Beast: 2 rides. 1 front seat, 1 in last car / first seat. Two or three train waits. The legendary Beast… I can only wonder what this coaster was like in its prime before it was tamed. As with The Racer, it appears that the PTC trains were retrofitted with belts and bars (though I will admit… the retractable belts I do kind of like better than the standard ones that adjust at the buckle… though they do look ugly with the little black casings for the spools on the outside of the trains).
Up the (very slow) lift hill, my anticipation was growing, and I was delighted by the first drop. All you Beast experts, forgive me if I don’t have the elements or layout down perfect, I only had two rides on it. At first it was fun… good speed, great visuals through the woods, a good ride. Then something happened. It seemed like the beast lost its way… it just meandered through the woods over some sections of straight flat track. Them more elements followed… then the second lift hill and into the final double helix after traveling down a strangely angled drop, and then back into the station. A good ride, yes… but not the legendary end all ride that this ride's reputation conjures up.
Tomb Raider: 1 ride. 30 minute wait. How can I put it nicely… great queue, kind of eerie feeling of being in some deserted tomb. Unfortunately, the queue was the best part of the attraction, certainly better than the ride inside. I’ve never been on a giant Top Spin before. I will say that the seats are more comfortable and roomy than a regular top spin. Other than that… can’t say much nice about this. It was rather lame. It spun you around a few times (very few times), left you hanging uncomfortably upside down for a few moments, let you stare up at the strangely lit ceiling… and then it was “Please exit to your right.” That was it? I waited in line for THAT? Just glad the queue wasn’t really full.
Rugrats Runaway Reptar: 1 ride, back seat. Five minute wait. Not feeling like getting soaked, we passed up the Wild Thornbury’s flume. When we neared Reptar, Chele found a bench and I got in line. Not much to say here… It was a credit. One thing though… when I was at Carowinds two years ago, the restraints on their Reptar seemed much tighter… so tight I couldn’t ride. On PKI’s Reptar I could have been wearing two parkas and a life jacket and still had plenty of room. Same ride, different restraints? Oh well. Only other coaster of this type I have ever ridden was Swamp Thing at Wild Adventures on Valdosta GA. They sent theirs through the short course twice… PKI sent theirs through only once. Of course, with how slow it was loading, I can see why they wouldn’t take the time to slow things down even more by a two lap cycle.
The Last Avatar: 1 ride. five minute wait. I don’t even know what this ride is. It’s like a “Rocking Tug” on a large track. It looks more intense than it really is…. more fun to watch than to ride actually. Considering it is in the Nickelodeon kids area but has a minimum height requirement much taller than the other rides in the area, a lot of small children were being turned away.
Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Castle: 2 rides. 10 minute waits. Okay, I’m starting to warm up to interactive dark rides. I wasn’t too keen on them at first, but the more I ride, the more I am beginning to be won over. Cool thing about this one is the Mystery Machine cars you ride in. They are also the weak point two… if you are right handed and sit on the right hand side, your movement for targeting is hindered by the design of the vehicle… same would apply to lefties on the left hand side. Anyway… a fun ride, though not too challenging. Geared toward kids, the targets are big and easy to hit. Still fun.
Being a big Scooby-Doo fan from little on up, and also being a fan of shoot-em-up dark rides, Michele was the one who suggested the re-ride. I think I out scored her on our first trip, she beat me on the second. One thing I will give it… unlike Hersheypark’s new Reeses Xtreme Cup Challenge, this ride is nice long. Also, unlike some rides of this type, the revolving floor in the loading / unloading area keeps things moving and this thing has great throughput.
Fairly Odd Coaster: 1 ride, mid train. Walk on. Not much to say about this. Good little wooden kids coaster. The fairly odd thing about this coaster was that it was running two trains! I never saw a coaster this small run two trains. I never even knew a coaster this small could run two trains.
Eiffel Tower: 1 trip. Walk on. Nice way to see the entire park and get aerial photos of various things (coasters, rides, the fountains just inside of the entrance, etc). Not much more to say about this. We stayed at the top for probably 15 to 20 minutes before heading back to ground level.
Dinner, Chick-Fil-A: At SFA we ate at Chick-Fil-A… and found it tasted comparable to regular Chick-Fil-A fare, though was priced expensive like park food. PKI’s Chick-Fil-A was also priced like park food AND tasted like “park food”. Dry Dry Dry…. and no “diet Lemonade” either. Oh well, it was food… and we were hungry. We survived.
Taking a break: It was now nearing 8pm. We were not used to doing 10 hours in a park. Michele was getting really tired, so we decided to take a little break. We checked a few gift shops near the entrance, found nothing, and then went to the exit. I got a hand stamp to return after I drove Michele back to the hotel. Being so close it did not take long for me to get back to the park.
Being that late in the day I didn’t even have to show my parking receipt from the morning since the parking booths were unmanned and wide open. I did have a plan… I wanted to make sure that I “closed the park” with some rides on The Beast in the dark. But since it was not yet dark, I headed toward the Action Zone again.
Son of Beast (part 2): 1 ride, 2nd car / 1st seat. I thought my first ride earlier in the day on SOB was rough. Compared to this second ride, that first ride was like floating on clouds. This thing actually hurt! Never have I even come close to getting sick on a coaster, but half way through the ride on SOB I was doing all I could to just survive. The shaking was so bad that I thought my neck was going to snap or at the very least my brain was going to be crushed against my skull. I honestly had to fight to keep from throwing up… and I am not exaggerating. In my entire life I have never been on a rougher, more painful coaster ride. That coater earned the anagram SOB with me half way during that ride… and it wasn’t SOB for Son of Beast… it was SOB for “If I live to see the train return to the station, I am NEVER EVER going to ride this son of a @#$%^ again, so help me God.”
This was a week or so before the recent accident on this coaster. If my normal ride shook me around this much and was this painful, I can only imagine what those people on the “accident train” must have gone through.
Drop Zone had been down earlier in the day, but was now running. When Michele and I were up in the Eiffel Tower earlier, she noted how the tower of Drop Zone was almost as tall as the tower. As I walked past it, I looked up to the top and contemplated a ride. But knowing that it was down earlier, and seeing dark storm clouds to the west as well as feeling a brisk breeze picking up, I decided to skip it… I just had this image of having the thing break down while I was at the top as a storm blew in. So instead, I went back to…
Top Gun (part 2): 1 ride. 1st seat. basically a Walk on… but a 5 minute wait non the less… Why the wait? The train that had just loaded when I stepped into the gate for seat 1 was held up while a woman near the back of the train was talking to her daughter who was standing next to the car and refusing to get on. After a lengthy attempt of convincing her (and with waiting riders getting impatient, the woman finally gave up. She was trying to convince her child to ride. Idiot woman... if your kid doesn't want to ride, don't try and force them. The ops left the kid stand in the area just off the station, at the top of the ramp, and sent the train out. The next train came in and unloaded and I climbed in.
As we neared the top of the lift hill, I looked west just at the right moment to see a brilliant bolt of lighting against the black wall of clouds, followed by a crack of thunder. Oh great… here we all were at the top of a lift hill of a steel coaster, higher than the trees around us. Basically we were riding a big lightning rod. But, we were already to the top of the hill… easiest and quickest way to get us back to the station was not to stop us and do a “walk down”, but rather just to send us through the course, which they did. When we returned to the station, we saw an empty train going out ahead of us and the waiting riders walking back through the entrance queue… and then heard the announcement that the ride was shutting down because of the storm.
Exodus: Chaper 1, Verse 1: The fast approaching storm ended any hope of a night ride on The Beast. Announcements were being made that the park was closing because of the storm and that people were advised to take cover. All was calm and orderly as people made their way to the exit, though people were walking rather rapidly. Just as I neared the exit, the lightning started… sharp bolts of it in the sky, constantly flashing… and then came the constant rumble of thunder. These natural fire works pre-empted those that they park had planned for 10pm. As soon as the wicked lightning show began, the orderly flow of people toward the park turned into a mad rush!
People were running everywhere… bumping into others… kids were flying through the air. No one had seen instant pandemonium erupt like this since great aunt Edna threw her bloomers up on stage at a Clay Aiken concert in 2003!
Lucky for me I had found a close parking space and was in my car before the heavy lightning and high winds began. By the time I had reached the hotel the rain had begun and I was soaked from the time it took me to get from the car to the door. So, even though it was unscheduled and 45 minutes early, I guess I closed down my 4th park in 5 days.
Having had a full day at PKI and having done all we wanted to (save a night time ride on The Beast, thanks to the weather), Michele and I decided that a second day was not needed and got ready to head home the next day.
Wrap Up: While none of the coasters at PKI I would consider great… we did have a good time at the park. I have heard people who are used to PKI say that it has changed over the years, that it has lost some of its personality and charm. Well, perhaps it has… but to a newbie to the park, it is not noticeable. On the contrary. While the other two Paramount parks that we have visited (Carowinds and PKD) might have coasters that I enjoy more than those at PKI, PKI certainly has the most charm and nicest atmosphere of the three parks. What will happen with the change of ownership… who knows.
Park operations were good with all coasters running multiple trains (with the exception of Reptar and, of course, Face Off), and the ops and other employees were good as well. Park food… well… not exactly the greatest I must admit.
All in all, we had a good visit to PKI and enjoyed the park. Skipping a second day here was simply because we had done all we wanted to do at the park. Unlike last year when we were so disappointed with Kings Island Resort and Conference center that we actually skipped the park, we thought this was a good way to end our trip on a good note. I guess the difference between this year and last… we planned a travel day with NO parks into our trip. You need that down time!
By not doing a second day here, we actually headed home a day early… but it was okay because we did all we had planned to do on our vacation. Besides, our stay at home was only going to be a "pit stop". Two days later we were off again, this time to New Jersey for wedding. Looking back, we are probably some of the very few people who have driven from Pennsylvania to New Jersey by way of WV, KY, IN, IL, MO, IL, IN and OH.
Oh well… time to start planning for next year. *** Edited 7/14/2006 6:19:55 AM UTC by SLFAKE***
I remember checking in with the guy at the Day's Inn and he said he was sold out that night and the night after. He thought there might be a room or two left at another budget chain, but we never found it. It's then that I knew things were going to be tough. Sure, we could've stayed at the Choice Hotel, but that was $110 for a single person, and we were on a budget. Driving around until 2:30am in the morning to get lodging is no fun, especially when it was the end of the trip.
From the maps (and the top of the Eiffel Tower) it appears to be on the far south side of the park. From the top of the tower we could see the parking lots with alot of cars parked in front of the main enterance to PKI and also a lot of cars parked further south in the lot, away from the entrance. My wife asked why they were down there and I said "probably for the water park." She then said that she was talking to someone while I was on SOB and they said that IF you have a PKI season pass and you want to go to the water park, you are allowed to enter the water park at the separate water park enterance... if you don't have a pass and you want to go to the water park, you have to enter the main gate of PKI and walk through the park to get to the water park.
Only going on what this woman told my wife... not sure if the woman had her story straight.
-Donald, Owner/Webmaster, KIExtreme.com - The In-Depth Guide to Kings Island
The day of rest won out over the night ride.
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