Wednesday, August 8, 2001 12:06 PM
At the risk of boring you with the non-coaster aspects of my trip, I think the way that my trip began will set the stage. On Saturday, Priscilla and I drove from San Diego to San Francisco to participate in a swim from Alcatraz to the city. The 7 hour trip through 100 heat coupled with my nervousness helped the slight cough I had been nursing to escalate to full blown bronchitis. After a hectic drive through chinatown, we found my brother's apartment, which happened to be on the steepest hill in the city (what I'd give for some coaster track down to the bay!) Parking was a whole story in of itself. The view was spectacular, but difficult to enjoy knowing that I'd be soon struggling in frigid water.
After a fitful sleep, we woke up bright and early Sunday morning and headed down to the bay to don our wetsuits and jump on the boat to the island. Within a few minutes, we were on the other side of the island, jumping into the frigid water. The butterflies were swarming in and about my stomach as 700 of us jumped in. I managed to cough and hack my way a mile and a half to shore in about an hour. Not first place, but alive at least. After a days festivities at my folks' house, and countless recounts of my swim and details of my upcoming coaster trip, I lost my voice. I did find out that my aunt's cousin's brother-in-law worked as a designer for Morgan...and that another oddly related person was a coaster inspector for an insurance company.
We spent the night in a motel before making the drive back to socal (don't worry, the coasters are on their way). I was sick as a dog by the time we caught the redeye for Indianapolis. I was beginning to get worried about my ability to make the trip. But, this was something that I'd wanted to do for the past 15 years or so; walking pneumonia wasn't going to keep me from the likes of Cornball Express and the Beast! If I were to die, at least I'd die happy!
We arrived early Tuesday morning, picked up the rental car, and made a beeline for Monticello. Since the park as a morning and evening riding session, we were able to sleep about 4 hours after arriving. We knew we were in for a treat when we parked under the Hoosier Hurricane! And although our room was right next to the midway, it was surprisingly quiet. However, they only had a smoking room available, whose nasty stinky odor did not help my condition any. The 90 degree weather with 90% humidity didn't help me feel any better either. Fortunately, Priscilla had some extra antibiotics which helped improve my condition a little.
When we woke up, I was super, crazy excited. We played Fascination for 15 minutes before the 4 o' clock session began. As soon as we got our wristbands, we hiked up the very long staircase to Hoosier Hurricane. The ride was surprising and fun. I especially enjoyed the dive under the suspension bridge just over the water. Whizzing past the car ride and Superstition Mountain was a lot of fun too. We then headed over to the Tig'rr. This was a little nostalgic for me since one of my first coaster loves was the Jetstar at Santa Cruz. Like the Jetstar, Tig'rr was on top of a building. We caught a great view of the Cornball Express, to which we ran just as soon as we could. By now I was drenched in sweat and was hucking up indescribable goodies from the depths of my chest, but I didn't care! Cornball was a walk-on, and boy what a ride! The short and wild circuit had us all over kiddy land, past the log ride, through some beams towards the lake, around and around, and out of our seats the whole time.
My Cornball grin was permanently fixed the rest of the evening. After a ride on the skyride, interesting darkrides, Galaxie, and 3 more rides each on the Hurricane and Cornball, we took a moonlit cruise on the paddle wheeler. What a site Indiana Beach is at night from the lake. All they really need are some tracer lights on the coasters. It looked like Pleasure Island in Pinnochio . We hit the gift shop for our standard kitschy shot glasses, t-shirts, and fridge magnets before taking one last ride on the Hurricane and Cornball. The Hurricane was riding great by the end of the night. My favorite part had to be soaring past the huge Ferris wheel, lit up like a Las Vegas casino. While waiting in line for the Cornball, we met ACE member Mark Harris. We chatted up a storm in the 5 minutes it took to get on. I decided that I would rejoin ACE after hearing that they would have a convention in my neck of the woods next year. The Cornball is relentless at night. We caught air on every hill.
After driving all-day on Wednesday, and upgrading my condition from serious to stable, we hit Cedar Point. We decided not to spoil the other coasters by riding Millennium first (thanks Guide to the Point!) and so we hit Mantis, Wildcat, and Corkscrew before working our way to the back of the park. The corkscrew restraints tightened over the bunny hop which made the ride very uncomfortable for my neck and back. But Magnum chairopractitioned me back into shape. We sat in seat 6-2 for an unbelievable view of Lake Erie and phenomenal air. The wait was only 20 minutes! Gemini was operating in race mode, which was fun. The Mine Ride was pretty nifty too. Just after Gemini, I was approached by fellow buzzer MILLENNIUMFORCERULES. It was really cool to meet someone in person. However, we were on our way to the mine ride, and he was on his way towards the Mean Streak. After a pleasant excursion on Cedar Creek Mine Ride, we trekked to Mean Streak, which was closed. So we speed walked to Iron Dragon and did zippy, foresty, lakey thing a couple times before hitting the park's front coasters. The Blue Streak was a lot of rickety fun. I love how and old ride like that is still just as fun as its contemporaries. It was a long hot wait for Raptor, but well worth it. It was by far the most intense iverted coaster I've ever been on. I was dazed and confused for a few moments. Great ride!
After a quick but fun trip on Disaster Transport we decided that it was time to ride "the" ride. We caught the skyride towards the looming structure, which put a lump in my throat quite frankly, of the Millennium Force. Watching trains fly by the line at over 60mph, one after another, and hearing the excited approval of the riders had my heart racing. After about 40 minutes, we were taking one of those comfortable seats in the back of one of those cool looking trains and pulling down the rather small lapbar. Straight back and up out of the station we climbed rather quickly and quietly towards the apex of the world. And no sooner had we started we were hurling straight down, eyes and mouths agape in a mixture of wonder, awe, fear, and adrenaline. We screamed around the wildly banked first turn and slammed down to the ground and first tunnel. Being that close to the ground, that unprotected, and that fast made the entire trip worthwhile. What I thought would be a slow hop over the third hill was a study in airtime. Back down for more ground action, air-hop, tunnel, bunny-hop, flyby, we were ecstatic. With Millennium Force permagrin, we enjoyed the rest of the evening with another ride on Magnum and finally, a ride on Mean Streak. Oh...and of course, another ride on the Millennium, where we met SROSAirtime. On our way out, it was another bag of shot glasses, magnets, and t-shirts for us.
It started raining the following morning. The storm followed us to Kennywood. The weather seemed to fit the town of steel (an wood of course!). Yellow Kennywood arrows guided us to the park. I could hardly contain myself when we got there. We passed through the entrance tunnel and there was the Old Mill to our right and Jackrabbit just beyond that. We immediately got in line for Jackrabbit. This rickety old thing with a rabbit painted on the front of the train, and a lift in the middle, was a blast. It looked like it had been built in someone's backyard. The double dip in the middle popped me and all my fellow riders out of our seats something fierce. From the Jackrabbit, I spied the beautiful red Racer. I'd like to see more woodies painted this way. It fit the surroundings quite well. We rode it right after our first dose of famous Kennywood fries. It was fun to slap hands around the turnarounds. Saving the Thunderbolt for later, we waited in the rain for Phantom's Revenge. It was pretty wild, but a little uncomfortable in the rain.
We then rode the venerable Thunderbolt. It didn't disappoint. Not only was it rickety, but it was fast and a lot more furious than it looked from line. Like the Jackrabbit, the final drop was the biggest and bestest. We spent the rest of the day taking in the sights and sounds of Kennywood. I really enjoyed the big beautiful trees, landscaping, and historic buildings. We ran into Craig The Coaster Freak while in line for a second serving of Racer action. As with Mark Harris on the Cornball, we excitedly talked shop for a couple minutes before parting ways. It's nice to know that we aren't alone in our fanaticism.
The Whip is the coolest flat ride ever. With my bulk, I thought the car would fly out of the building, taking all the other cars with me as we whipped around the corners.
The Shriners were there to complete the scene, parade with cars and hats, the whole bit. Four more servings of fries and all I needed was Ma with an apple pie in her arms. With a final, much improved, much faster, much jumpier ride on Phantom's, we reluctantly left after purchasing our obligatory shot glasses, magnets, and t-shirts.
The next morning we rose with the chickens and headed for our final destination: King's Island. It was Saturday and the parking lot was packed. We knew the lines would be bad, but the Eiffel Tower sticking up into a clear sky with little puffy clouds and very low humidity seemed promising enough. We made for the Beast's lair in the back of the park. I could hardly believe I was there, standing in line for the holy grail. World's longest coaster. A legend of mythic proportions. And the wait was a mere 20 minutes! And what a letdown. Perhaps we had been spoiled by Cornball. It just didn't do much for us. That, coupled with uncomfortable rides on the Vortex, Racer, King Cobra (might as well add spikes to the seats!), and an hour and a half wait for Flight of Fear (the folks in the station didn't seem to be in any particular hurry), had us in a gloomy mood all afternoon. We were starting to think that we should have gone to Holiday World instead. Later on, after a heaping steaming plate of Skyline Spaghetti with chilli and gobs of cheese and a whirl on the Top Gun, Kings Island looked a little better to us. Sonny wasn't too bad, albeit quite rough on the old ribs. We crossed the park and hit Beastie and Reptar. The Beastie was fantastic. If I had a backyard, I'd build one! After watching the sunset from the Eiffel Tower, we noticed that Adventure Express, which had been closed all day, was now open. We took the next elevator down and ran. I love it's use of terrain. the line was short, so we took another ride before taking a backwards ride on the Racer next door. We waited for the very back, which was actually the front. It was a blast. Much more comfortable this way. And, we were racing. caught a glims of a huge orange moon rising in the east. We have too many mountains where I live to see that very often. Nice wild ride though.
It was now dark and so we headed for "the Beast at night" in hopes that it would somehow redeem itself. Oh-My-Gawd! The Beast comes out at night! Most woodies are much better at night. The track gets all greased up and the wheel lube warms up and loses viscosity. What speed! What power! What fury! The valleys had begun to collect pockets of cool air which were a refreshing break from the insanely hot day as the beast plunged in and around it's snaking course. This ride starts out kinda slow, then slowly picks up speed and by the end of the first half is straight up out of control, racing through valleys, cool air, and trees. Then came the second lift and helix. Hooooo mama! The hill is really shallow so it takes a few moments to gain speed. You head straight for this incredibly tiny tunnel opening at the start of the huge double helix. Once inside, all hell breaks loose. Everybody is screaming. It's dark and noisy. The train is flexing and shaking. You feel as if the whole contraption will fly apart at the seams.
Earlier in the day, Brain from the Flyers (Flyer) noticed my Indiana Beach shirt and took me for an enthusiast. He told us to come back to the Beast at night...that it would be like a party. A party it was! He had the whole station clapping and yelling and hooting and hollering. Got the old blood flowing.
We rode 2 more times. On our final run, the full moon rose above the trees and the park's closing fireworks were being set off from behind the ride. As we crested the first lift, gorgeous fire painted the sky. As we descended into the lair, the dimly lit forest flashed with reds, greens, and yellows. As the ride sped through the climax of the first half, the fireworks' grand finale added strobing lights and reports. The final helix, again, was blind fury. I lost my voice again. I was utterly spent. It couldn't have been a better ending to an awesome trip. The Beast was every bit what I had hoped for. It is a genuine muscle coaster.
Well, after picking up shot glasses, magnets, and t-shirts, we dragged ourselves all the way back to California. We're exhausted and satisfied with the 25 miles of track under our belts. I had forgotten about work and my hack for a few days. I can't wait to plan my next trip (which will probably involve Holiday World and Michigan Adventure). And if you make your way out here, see you at Knott's, my home park!
Thanks for reading.
*** This post was edited by janfrederick on 8/10/2001. ***
Monday, August 13, 2001 4:08 PM
Sweet! I was a ride operator back in the day and even went as far has having a coworker write one for me in exchange for me writing one for him. Needless to say, we really hammed it up. They both ended up in the employee newsletter the following month.
That notwithstanding, you completely earned yours. I know that operating rides isn't always a walk in the park when it comes to dealing with angry guests etc. And I really was a little disappointed until our experience at the Beast. It's amazing that you were able to sustain that level of energy after working all day (we originally saw you in the morning). It was at the end of a four park trip and we were getting tired! You really got us in the mood. I'm glad they posted the letter. In addition to the enthusiasm, you guys were downright fast. I hate waiting in long hot lines only to see folks filing their nails. (seriously, at one ride, a guy waited until his nails were clipped before checking the lapbars and dispatching the tain!)
All in all, it's important to let parks know that their employees attitudes really affect the guest experience. In fact, I'll make a post about doing just that now.