The trip over to PKI was a pretty uneventful one. The five-hour drive over didn’t seem as bad as expected, probably because I slept about two hours of it. Around 11:30, we pulled into the Red Roof Inn just down the road from PKI and checked in. From there, it was off to the park.
The noon arrival time was a little later than expected, but not disastrous. I immediately noticed just how nice the entrance and main midway is. I can only imagine how nice it would be if Tomb Raider or Buddha or whatever that thing is wasn’t blocking the view of the Eiffel Tower and all the fountains. Still, it’s probably one of, if not the nicest entrances to a park I’ve seen.
We worked our way to the back of the park, looking around and checking things out. The first line we arrived at was Vortex. This ride really surprised me in a few ways. First of all, it’s so much bigger than I expected. Pictures don’t really do the thing justice, as it just seems to take up so much space. Another way would be the surprisingly good ride it gives. Two train operation made for a pretty fast line, and we were on in no time. I actually really enjoyed myself. The first drop that doesn’t go into an inversion is cool.
We had a map, but weren’t quite sure where we were headed after that. We moved in the general direction of the Beast, and passed some flyers, an unexpected treat. The Beast’s line was back to its entrance, which we didn’t know at the time proved for a fairly lengthy but not unbearable wait.
We got in to the station and lined up for the next train. Apparently, it was “Two For Tuesday,” as the couple kids in front of me proudly showed a little piece of paper to the ride op and they were allowed to stay on. It almost screwed up our plans to have all three members of the crew on the same train, but the op paired me up with a single rider in the row ahead of Joe and Gaddis. Lady Luck must have been looking down on us that day (for many reasons, others I’ll get into later), because it turned out I got paired with a very sociable, very attractive young lady. Nothin’ like a coaster ride with a hottie, eh? ;)
I love long coasters, and the Beast is just that. It’s unlike most rides out there, as it just traverses through the trees and seems to stay relatively close to the ground the whole time. The second half is blazingly fast and literally screams through the tunnels. I enjoyed my first ride, but my second later in the day was a whole other story. Stay tuned…
We continued meandering around the park, checking out the Eiffel Tower. It’s a great observation tower seemingly right in the middle of the park. In fact, if you have a keen eye, you can pick out all thirteen of PKI’s coasters.
After checking out “The Paramount Story,” which was actually quite interesting, we hopped on the forward track of Racer. It’s sad to see them not actually racing, but a fun ride nonetheless. Later in the day, we hopped on the backwards track which is loads more fun.
Next in line was the quirky little Adventure Express. The pre-lift part was interesting, not to mention unexpected. The ride itself was pretty cool, and I was really excited when we entered the second lift. The Mayan (or whatever they were) statues beating their drums or whatnot was killer… but then the ride ends! Just like that, it’s over! How anti-climactic is that?!
Moving on, we headed to the ride that I simply was not looking forward to: King Cobra. I’m not a big fan of stand-ups to being with, and due to this rides manufacturer, the infamous TOGO, I was severely freaked out by this piece of machinery. It’s not a comfortable ride by any means, and for a tall fellow like myself, the pain is compounded. My shoulders were hitting the harness and my feet couldn’t get positioned on the floor good. This TOGO ride earns its name – try once, get off.
From there, we moved into the Action Zone, a new, shadeless are of the park. Son of Beast was first on our list, and though it had a pretty sizeable line, the wait wasn’t that long. I took special care to secure my belongings before we left the station. Why? Well, I sat on a wallet and some change. Being an moral Buzzer, I didn’t even take time to look into it and immediately handed it to the ride op. (It wasn’t until after I handed it to the op I even realized I could have pocketed, quite literally, whatever money was in it. But, that would be straight-up wrong, wouldn’t it?)
I don’t quite understand the logic behind raising the floors of the trains, but I’m sure there’s a reason. It caused me a little discomfort, as my knees hit the seats in front of me. Anyway, it’s a great ride that didn’t seem to run nearly as rough as some had reported. I guess that’s due to an entire off-season of tweaking.
One part of the ride that needs no tweaking is the loop. Gaddis hit the nail on the head when he said “it’s like time stands still in there.” It really is unlike any other loop I’ve felt. Going from the rough-as-a-woodie-should-be part to the smooth-as-glass loop is something else. Everything goes silent. Wonderful experience.
Top Gun was next. Just walking back to that thing is a chore… I was expecting to find the Donner party sooner or later. But, as luck would have it, ChiliVision was showing the Queen/Robbie Williams video for “We Are The Champions.” That made the hike a little more bearable.
Top Gun was my second suspended, and was basically on par with the first, Iron Dragon at Cedar Point: A fun ride, but easily forgettable.
It was about lunchtime so we walked across the Action Zone and stopped in the Festhaus for a pizza. Gaddis and I, being the smart fellows that we are, decided to work out the price of pizza slices vs. a whole pizza. A slice is $2.25 while a whole pizza is $16. Since we came to the conclusion we save $2 by getting the whole pizza, that’s the road we took.
Then not ten seconds later, Gaddis looks up at the sign and sees at the bottom, “Save $2 when you buy a whole pizza!” The depth of our intelligence boggles the mind…
Anyhow, the pizza was good and filling. For a small break after the food, we thought we’d check out all the kiddie coasters. The Line Gods must not have wanted us to, as they were all very busy. Instead, we opted for a ride on the Kings Island and Miami Valley Railroad, which I was looking forward to. (Some of you probably know, I really enjoy miniature railroads, especially those that go away from the park itself. This one fell right into those categories, and also gave a nice look at the Tomb Raider construction area.)
Around this time, we took a spin on the Flyers. While in line, a fine young woman on the ride took the opportunity to compliment him on his Weezer shirt… ”Weezer is an awesome band!”
The time flew by and it was already 7:00. We knew we had to take a night ride on the Beast, and with the park closing at 10:00 that night, we figured we had to be in line by 9:15 or so. Both Face/Off and Flight of Fear had 1+ hour lines, and with the combined facts that we have been on an Invertigo (SFA’s Two Face) and Flight of Fear has been receiving such rave reviews sans the over-the-shoulder restraints, we opted for FoF.
The queue area in the building is incredibly dark, with only theming lights and light from the many televisions showing the way. The film isn’t very interesting and kind of hard to follow. I guess it’s some kind of government agency trying to cover up a flying saucer that had been spotted in Hangar 18, which, ironically, is where you’re standing. Decent…
But the ride is so much more. The launch is incredible, and the rest of the ride is non-stop action. Apparently there is a mid-course brake run, but I neither noticed it nor felt any slowing. It really was hard, at times, to tell which way was up. You know that’s a good ride. A marked improvement over Joker’s Jinx, to say the least.
We all decided to kill a little time, waiting for a Beast night ride, in some of the shops. The sun was finally starting to set, so we headed back to the back of the park. Vortex’s short line was appealing, so we took another spin. I’d like to take this time to ask any PKI regular: What’s up with Vortex’s paint job? The “front,” mainly the loops, are painted an awesome dark blue with orange track. The “back,” the lift and such, is a dismal faded gray and orange. Why don’t they just paint it? I can only imagine how wonderful that thing would look done up all pretty…
Anyhow, the sun was completely down and the time was right to get in line for the Beast. The devil’s horns and various nighttime keepsakes were out in abundance, and that feel that comes over any amusement park at night started to come out.
We got word that there would be a fireworks display at closing. I casually remarked, “Wouldn’t it be something to watch the fireworks on the coaster?” We all agreed, that would be something else.
The line moved at a decent pace, and when you’re able to watch Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist in line for a coaster, what more do you want? I seriously miss that show. The whole ChiliVision thing was a cool idea to start with, and I guess that’s one of the perks of being a Paramount Park.
Anyway, we got closer and closer to the station, and none of us had looked at our watches. Soon enough, we were on the train waiting heading up the first lift. The first drop seemed much steeper than the first lap, and the train literally screamed through the first tunnel. After that, it was hard to see anything out there in the forest on that warm August night. We shot through the tunnels and zoomed around the corners, careening at breakneck speed. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow… the Buzzers were right. This ride is great at night!” And then, somehow, that ride great ride moved from greatness to what our humble webmaster Jeff would call “a religious experience…”
Just as we entered the last tunnel before the second lift, I saw a small red flash go off behind us. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I had an idea…
Then we hit the second lift…
We all immediately looked to our right and proceeded to see huge flashes of red, white, blue, green, purple and all sorts of colors lighting up the sky. A small jerk lurched us a little forward in our seats, and the lift slowed to an absolute crawl. It was eerily quiet for a second, until a passing loudspeaker came on:
”Are you guys enjoying the view?”
The entire train roared with delight. It was almost surreal. I joked about it earlier, but now it was happening. The fireworks continued to go off as we slowly crested that hill. The ride op came on just as we went over the top and said “Have a great ride.”
Those last two helices felt faster than any other coaster I’ve ridden. We could still see the fireworks going off as we’d come from the tunnels into the night, and they kept firing until we hit the brake run.
Sheer amazement fell over Joe, Gaddis, and myself. It’s so hard to explain it to someone who wasn’t there, and the only thing I think I can say that really does it justice is this: That lap on the Beast is probably the single best ride a coaster has given me in all my rides. It was simply unbelievable. There’ve been a few times I was left absolutely speechless after a ride, Millennium Force comes to mind… and now this one joins that elite group. From the actual ride, to the more-than-friendly ride op, to the wonderful fireworks display, Paramount’s Kings Island hit one out of the park for me.
And that goes for the rest of the day, too. I was really expecting a mediocre park that tried to do too much with too little, but got the exact opposite. The rides are well-placed, the park is well-kept, and the scenery, theming, and gardens are well-done. We didn’t even have time to do everything we wanted, such as Drop Zone, Face/Off, the kiddie rides, 7th Portal, and Phantom Theatre.
I just can’t wait to go back.
Co-Webmaster : Kennywood Boulevard
WOW, I haven't even been able to get a night ride on the Beast the last few years, let alone a "religious experience" like you had. Sounds like the coaster gods were looking out for your favor. Awesome TR!
It's a simple equation: CCI + CP = #1 Wooden Coaster!
*** This post was edited by chris on 8/23/2001. ***
Co-Webmaster : Kennywood Boulevard
When it's all complete, that will be one beautiful coaster. And it's not your everyday color scheme, either!
I wonder what that ride would be like with lapbars or X-type restraints.
Matt Lynch, who thinks Vortex may be one of his favorite loopers...
Co-Webmaster : Kennywood Boulevard
*** This post was edited by janfrederick on 8/24/2001. ***
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