"So...why are we going to Pittsburgh?" -- First time at Kennywood, 6-17-06

Associated parks:
None

Monday, July 3, 2006 4:05 PM
At some point during the end of this past semester -- forgive me for not remembering exactly when, as the end of the year kind of blurred together into one big stressful mess -- my good friend Charles noted to his roommate Stu L. and myself that he would be taking a short summer class at Carnegie Mellon University at the start of the summer. Stu immediately reacted, "That's in Pittsburgh, right? ...you know, there's a park in Pittsburgh..."

With those simple words, an idea both brilliant and moronic was hatched. Stu was only available to go on the weekend of June 16-18, and I quickly agreed without realizing that it was Father's Day weekend. This is where the plan got even more dumb: I would have to completely lie to my dad, then drive out to Pittsburgh Friday night, go to the park and still drive home on Saturday. Any number of things could go wrong, and any one bad thing could have been disastrous.

But here I am telling the tale, so you must know how things went. ;)

The trip out to Pittsburgh was relatively uneventful. I worked till 2:30pm and left right for Princeton. I didn't have to be there till 5:30-6:00pm, so I decided to detour and swing by Great Adventure to see if I could snag a lap on El Toro. The park was pretty full -- I had to pick PLJ Day to go, didn't I? -- and the line for Toro moved slower than molasses due to the abomination that is one-train operation. I stayed the line for about 50 minutes and didn't even make it halfway through. By the time I noticed that there was a line developing in the Flash Pass line (which it's wont to do when the crew can only manage a dispatch once every 8-10 minutes or so), I gave up and left in disgust.

[u]Short Digression:[/u] I love SFGAdv and have stood by it quite often, but I must just be picking the wrong days to go. In my three (if you count this failed attempt) visits this season, I've ridden less than 10 rides total. I'm glad to read all the trip reports telling how the park is turning itself around, but I'm just not seeing it myself. It could be that I've gone on all weekend days (Fridays and Sundays), but that only makes me wonder that, if they can't handle weekend crowds at the start of the season, how intolerable will the park be at the height of the season? I can't afford to take a day off of work to make a weekday trip, but more and more I'm finding it futile to attempt the park on a weekend. Again, maybe it's just me, but something about Great Adventure is really starting to piss me off, and it took a 2-hour-plus line for El Toro to really make me see it.

Back to the business at hand, I arrived at Princeton, transferred my stuff to Stu's Volvo, and we headed out for the Turnpike. I sat in a **** load of traffic getting to SFGAdv and Princeton (a combination of volume, accidents, and one fully-engulfed car fire), but surprisingly we hit no bumps in the road en route to the Penn Turnpike. We stopped in Downingtown to pick up Stu and Charles's former roommate, Stu A., and us three hit the road again. We stopped for some Roy Rogers, Starbucks, and Cinnabon along the way, and had a nearly-five-hour-long discussion on topics ranging from school to work to various vehicular mishaps: Stu A's tirade on being stuck in four hours of traffic behind a truck fire on the Penn Turnpike took the cake.

And of course, at regular intervals along the way, the question needed to be asked: why are we going to Pittsburgh? Really, this was pretty dumb, especially considering my parents thought I was 300 miles closer to home for two days. Anything bad had the potential to get much worse -- and besides, what could possibly be so great about Pittsburgh?

After arriving at Charles's dorm at CMU, crashing on a common room couch for the night, and filling ourselves up with the 'bucks that morning, we arrived at our answer shortly after 10:40am: Kennywood.

I was pretty surprised with the park's location, as I didn't expect it to be right on the river, but the ridiculous terrain of the parking lot came as no surprise to even a one-time visitor to Pitt. Stu L. had scored a "family fun day" offer from http://www.visitkennywood.com that gave us 4 tickets for $70 -- a hell of a deal for someone weaned on Six Flags pricing. We quickly entered the park, grabbed a map, and decided to follow the one piece of advice I'd read in a recent thread: DO EXTERMINATOR FIRST.

After a map-reading mishap, we found the ride and waited a mere 15 minutes for a ride. The theming is pretty cheesy (no pun intended), but once this thing got going, it proved a pretty formidable mouse. The first few turns and drops were surprisingly airy, leading up to an all-around mediocre (but by no means bad) experience. But then came the ride's second half. This part was brilliant: the lights went totally black and with a click the car started spinning out of control. The experience was deliciously disorienting, and we all got off laughing our asses off. So far, so good!

We exited and went right onto the Whip, which was a walk-on. I've loved these things since I rode the Dorney one last year, and this one didn't disappoint in the least. The four of us sat singly in four consecutive cars and had a blast. Another winner.

Next we decided to tackle the newest ride, SwingShot. This was my first Screamin' Swing experience so I was pretty thrilled to give it a shot. At this point in the day only one side was running -- the other side would open up later that day -- but the wait was pretty minimal. As the ride kicked into gear, I was pretty surprised at the forcefulness with which it starts: it doesn't just start rocking into its rhythm like a Huss Frisbee, it gives a nice strong push right from the start. By the time the swing reaches its past-90-degree swing, the airtime is just downright ridiculous. Not to mention that the view when looking straight down just can't be beat. All told, I was very pleasantly surprised, though disappointed with the short ride cycle (is this a problem with the other SS's as well?). My compatriots enjoyed it thoroughly as well.

Unfortunately, said compatriots were also becoming quite warm, and with the temperature rising we thought, what better way to cool off than with a spin on the Pittsburg Plunge? While Hershey's version of the "giant freaking splash" ride, Tidal Force, takes the thrill cake for me, I've never before tackled a GFS that created a splash that resembled a shell. I figured I might be able to get away with not getting completely soaked (as a member of the overweight community who's somewhat self-conscious about his current body image, having soggy clothes clinging all day does not exactly appeal to my modesty). But once we hit the bottom, the wall of water simply enveloped the entire boat; I didn't stand a chance.

Needing a nice rush of air to dry off, we decided to tackle Pitt Fall next, since there was no wait. We took two consecutive rides, one facing the parking lot, one facing the Monongahela. Though a pretty standard drop ride -- in my book, if it's not an S&S or a second-/third-gen Intamin, there's not much to write home about -- its location is impeccable. The view is stunning, and the placement next to the ravine makes it feel even taller than it is. Clearly, it's effect is stronger if you face the river, but I still love how straight drop rides can scare me, so I gave it the thumbs-up both times.

And now it was time: we had conquered nearly all of Lost Kennywood save for one machine: The Phantom's Revenge. We hopped on line, and were immediately distressed by its painfully slow progression. We soon learned that there was only one train on the track. We patiently waited all the way through to the station and waited for the back row, where we met some Pittsburghians (is that the right nominalization?) who identified us as New Yorkers by our accents (one state off, but close enough for jazz). As we chatted with them, we noticed workers starting to pull the second train onto the transfer track and jokingly said that we'd probably end up at the gate when they moved the train. Sure enough, one train before our scheduled dispatch, they shut the ride down and tacked the next train on. At that point, we'd waited almost an hour so it didn't matter too much, but I was incredibly anxious for the ride and just wanted to get on! Finally, after a brief test run, we bid our high school fans farewell and hopped in for our inaugural backseat ride.

The first hill was pretty surprising to me, since I knew this much was still Arrow's doing. Relatively smooth, not jerky at all, and led rather nicely into the second ascent. And then, pure bliss. The legendary second drop was all I'd hoped for, a long fast descent into a deceptively deep abyss, my butt hanging off the seat for the full length of the drop. The deep turn ended up not being as intense as I expected, but the tunnel going into the second turn had a nice little air pop. A couple hills, a little turn, and we returned to the station. As the ride ended, my thoughts were mixed. There were moments of brilliance, but by the end of the ride, I was left just a bit flat. The air was nice but not extraordinary, and there just seemed like there was something missing. I'd be willing to give it another shot, but not now, not with the line only just starting to slim down.

After this delightful experience, we were left with two choices: to tackle the Thunderbolt, or to have lunch. We walked past the Potato Patch and noticed a fairly shallow line, but the Stus and Charles both thought it was a bit lengthy, so we decided to hit the Thunderbolt first. This idea thrilled Stu L., who'd been on the ride years ago (he hails from Cleveland) and remembered it fondly. We paired up, heeding the "no single riders" warning, a threat that made me very happy, and dispatched. Without warning, a drop. Oh, me gusta mucho. We swooped around and dipped again before the lift. I was pleasantly surprised with the early shot of tasty air, but the second half of the ride seemed to stress the laterals more. As our train dropped and began navigating the helices, that observation became the understatement of the year, as I spent most of the ride practically sitting in Charles's lap. A couple tasty drops near the end sealed the deal: this is a pretty solid classic woodie, which has two very different characters and executes them brilliantly.

Next stop: the Potato Patch. Unfortunately for my friends, time only caused the line to increase (they should've listened to me!) but we waited anyway. We all ate fries with bacon and cheddar and either garlic or seasoning salt, washed down with some fresh squeezed lemonade that Charles fetched from a stand behind Noah's Ark. I don't think I need to relate to you the orgasmic nature of this lunch. Oh. My. :D

We gave ourselves some time to digest and made a beeline for the other side of the park. Along the way, we swung by the kiddie area so I could cre-ho Lil' Phantom, much to my friends' visible embarrassment. Many shaken heads and obscene gestures were exchanged, but I got my credit and left satisfied. :P

Aero 360 was down for maintenance, so we headed right for the Racer. Our party split up for a race, and we all selected backseat rides after a short 15-20 minute wait. Ultimately, the Stu L./Charles train was dispatched before mine and Stu A.'s, so they took the victory, and the trains were unfortunately dispatched too far apart for any hand-slapping, though we tried. Truth be told, I don't recall much about the ride, except that the first drop was somewhat disappointingly short. The rest of the ride cruised along fairly smoothly, and the experience was overall quite fun. (And yes, technically, each of us only rode half the circuit, but I'll count it as a whole ride anyway!)

We took a walk across the path to the Skycoaster, but decided that it wasn't worth paying almost as much as we paid for park admission for one ride, so I continue to have never taken a swing. Our next target was our final coaster, the Jack Rabbit, but seeing a somewhat lengthy queue, I talked everyone into waiting for Garfield's Nightmare first and seeing how the line changed. The boat ride was a somewhat long wait (25-30 minutes) and was little more than the leisurely boat ride we expected, but when the ride stopped at one point, the four of us were forced to heave-ho along the edge of the trough to keep our boat afloat! Apparently those Potato Patch fries weighed us down too much. ;)

When we returned to the Jack Rabbit afterwards, the line had not shrunk, but was moving, so we hopped on line after grabbing water bottles from a nearby stand. The most amusing thing about this ride to me was the logo, a rabbit with a turbine strapped to its back. I made sure to snag a solid picture thereof, and have since used it as my cell phone wallpaper. :) With a surprisingly short wait, we grabbed near-back seats and prepared for dispatch. Once again, Kennywoodies with their unconventional designs kept me on my toes. The long slow roll out of the station led into a delightful drop-tunnel combo before the main lift. Another turn and then...the legendary double-down. Tasty doesn't even come close to describing this satisfactorily. The violence with which I ascended and descended from my seat was nothing short of spectacular. A quick turn and another tasty air-filled drop followed, but then -- um...that's it? I mean, I know I should never look gift air in the mouth, but it felt like the ride never even got going before it was over. I loved the double-down and the tasty air on the other two drops, but there was literally nothing else to the ride and it distressed me. I'm still violently ambivalent about the Jack Rabbit.

Our circle complete, we now started to contemplate our options. We had about an hour left to spare before we had to leave and had to decide what else we wanted to ride and what we wanted to retackle. Although I wanted to try out the Kangaroo, the other three didn't want to wait in the line that had grown so we unfortunately passed -- rest assured, it's on my list for the future. In general, the guys felt that they'd touched all the rides they'd wanted to hit at least once and were now looking for reruns. We all unanimously decided to hit the Exterminator again, but the line was outside the building and thus, to our estimation, too long. We decided we could hit two rides at least in that time, so we decided to definitely take another spin on Phantom, then possibly reswing on the SwingShot.

The Phantom's Revenge line was much shorter than it had been earlier, and was moving much quicker thanks to two-train operation. We decided to try the front seat this time, and were ascending the lift in a mere 15 minutes. The drop was once again surprisingly smooth, and then, at the top of the second hill, a HUGE surprise: a stunning pop of air that kept me out of my seat almost all the way through to the monster drop. That's about 5-6 seconds of solid air, and I was shocked. So much so that the positive Gs at the bottom of the drop took me even more by surprise. I sat in huddled anticipation for the tunnel, and as it approached, POP went the air. I mean downright nastiness. And the return to my seat was just as violent and forceful. This pattern continued for every hill throughout the rest of the ride, ejector air like (in my experience) none other. By the end of the ride, I was breathless. I was even more surprised since my last Morgan experience, Steel Force, was practically forceless. In the back seat, PR was good -- but in the front, it was downright heavenly. It'll be making a strong initial ranking in my ballot for Mitch's poll next year, that's for damn sure. :D

We ended the day with another swing on SwingShot, which confirmed both the awesome air this monster packs as well as the fact that this baby is a people-eater. Our airtime appetites satisfied for the day, we made our way for the park exit, searching desperately for a Fried Oreo stand to satisfy our craving for artery-clogging goodness. We stumbled into the Carousel food court searching, but had our attentions diverted by a more wonderful-sounding prospect: belgian waffle sundaes. Mine was topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberries, in an effort to sustain some semblance of healthfulness. The only adequate word is mmm. A delightfully tasty and appropriate end to our day indeed!

All in all, I absolutely adored Kennywood. It's reminded me of a larger, slightly more intense Lake Compounce. Even with the unapologetically urban location, its ambience is still quaint and pleasant. In terms of rides, the balance is phenomenal and almost all of them deliver. The food was phenomenal, and incredibly reasonably priced. And all this for an admission price of only $17.50! It was just a positively unbeatable deal. While it was probably an incredibly dumb and short-sighted idea, by the time it had been concluded successfully -- no breakdowns this time, thankfully! -- it had turned into one of the most brilliant schemes any of us had concocted in quite some time. Even some of the smaller downers -- like the shortness of the SwingShot and Jack Rabbit, and the late addition of two-train operation to PR -- weren't enough to dampen our spirits.

On the way home, as my iPod blared out a Decemberists-heavy soundtrack, the question came up, with equal frequency: "Why did we just go to Pittsburgh?" Only this time, after a short delay, we had a consistent answer: "Oh yeah...Kennywood. That f***ing rocked!"

Indeed, it did. :)

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Monday, July 3, 2006 4:38 PM
Nitro Dave: (Great Trip Report!) Kennywood is probably what Shapiro and company are thinking about when they talk about catering to families.

I was only at Kennywood once (For two consecutive days) and it was full of families and people truly having a great time. Line cutting was not happening, the teens were mostly well-mannared marching band members, and the food and the prices were reasonable. (Wait - in comparrison to 6 Flags - INSANELY REASONABLE) Oh and by the way - no season passes.

The flats are family friendly, yada yada yada - it's all been said before.

Kennywood is a very special place. THe people of Pittsburgh have a gem!

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Monday, July 3, 2006 11:07 PM
I was all geared up to tell you that you should have waited for Phantom again to try the more forward seats because THEN you'd experience the Phantom that everyone raves about... then you went and did it ;) So, short of the Kangaroo and sticking around to see the lighting package at night, you pretty much got the entire Kennywood experience. Just curious, how did you get to the park? Did you take a bridge over a large shopping area, or come the whole way through a residential district?

Oh and by the way, it's easy to tell you at least hang around with Ivy Leaguers if you aren't one yourself ... that's gotta be the most sophistocated, upscale-language trip report ever posted! ;)

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Monday, July 3, 2006 11:33 PM
Brett, we were coming from Carnegie Mellon, so we headed through a small commercial district by the interstate which led into a residential area. Basically, we followed the big yellow arrows till we hit a huge bridge across the Monongahela -- from there, we could see the park up to the left and it was a no-brainer. Total trip from CMU was about 20 minutes.

And by the way, I do appreciate your compliment. Yes, I both associate with Princetonians and am one myself (a senior next year) -- and as if this crew wasn't kickin' enough, Charles will be helping me write another monster TR in two weeks: HW, SFoG, (P)KI, and SFKK in five days, plus a Reds game to boot. Tasty. :)

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Tuesday, July 4, 2006 7:30 PM
Nitro Dave, did the bridge have construction? There's only three bridges on the Mon that are close enough to KW and one of them is too far away to see any of the park. From CMU, you could've headed out on Forbes Ave and through Edgewood/Swissvale across another bridge where you can see KW on your left. You go under the interstate 376 on that, unless you took that bridge.

Sounds like you had a good trip. Every time I get off PR, it has me wanting more! But I love it in its own regard. I was there last Saturday and rode it four times, including twice in the row in the front. I love how intense it is up there when flying through the tunnel near the T-Bolt. If only it was 30 sec.- 1 min. longer..

If I'm not mistaken, the Racer has such a short first drop because of a previous configuration of the ride and had a drop under there, thus the need for clearance.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 11:50 AM

Nitro Dave said:


here we met some Pittsburghians (is that the right nominalization?)


Actually some Pittsburghians are referred to as "yinzers" which refers to some of the locals that use the term "yinz" as a local slang for "you all". Myself, I wouldn't be caught dead saying "yinz"...

Like Impulse-ive said, sound like you had the entire KW experience, but perhaps minus Noah's Ark which is indeed a true gem. Also, although the Skycoaster is an upcharge, giving the setting a views of the park, it is one of the better installations and worth a try, but it generally sells out early and you have to buy your ticket immediately if you want a good time slot.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 1:11 PM
Brett's right about the upscalyousness of your trip report. I love it.

As I was reading along my mind kept saying, "Please go and ride PR's toward the front. Please!" Then you did. Then I was happy.

I can't wait to read your MidWouth TR.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 11:35 PM
Nitro Dave,

That's one of the coolest KW trip reports I have read in a while! Very blunt but lighthearted. I loved it!

Glad you had fun! I usually visit at least twice a year. It's a favorite out of my many homeparks. ;) I could NEVER get tired of Kennywood.

Rock on!

-Tina

*** Edited 7/6/2006 3:35:59 AM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 11:52 PM

beeman65 said:
There's only three bridges on the Mon that are close enough to KW and one of them is too far away to see any of the park. From CMU, you could've headed out on Forbes Ave and through Edgewood/Swissvale across another bridge where you can see KW on your left. You go under the interstate 376 on that, unless you took that bridge.

We definitely went through Swissvale on the way there. The bridge we took was, as far as I could tell from a brief panoramic look, the one closest to Kennywood if the park is on one's left hand side. If this helps at all, there was a gas station at the end of the bridge (which was a T-intersection with Kennywood Blvd.) and a ginormous yellow Kennywood arrow pointing left was sitting on a cliff above said gas station.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 11:57 PM
LOL! Don't get me started on the "you will see three exits, take the second one" trip I had last year visiting a friend that lives in West Mifflin. I don't think Gator will forget it either, right Bill? :) This was off the Squirrel Hill exit though....the one before Swissvale.... Never mind. :-P

If it wasn't for those arrows I would STILL get lost!

-Tina

*** Edited 7/6/2006 3:58:35 AM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 2:04 AM
That's the Rankin Bridge. I kind of thought that's what you were describing.

coasterqueen, yep the Squirrel Hill exit would take you across the *other* bridge. City of bridges, right? ;) Pretty odd and cool to go from narrow residential streets with stop signs to being sent across a big bridge over the river. Part of the 'Burgh charm though.

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 11:01 AM
I had directions from the KW site and once we hit the narrow residential streets, Gordon insisted I'd navigated us wrong. We stopped at a convenience store and I asked directions, only to be told we were headed in the right direction. It kind of surprised both of us to see the river and bridge, with KW on the hillside to the left.

We were there the day before.

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 12:46 PM

coasterqueenTRN said:
LOL! Don't get me started on the "you will see three exits, take the second one" trip I had last year visiting a friend that lives in West Mifflin. I don't think Gator will forget it either, right Bill? :) This was off the Squirrel Hill exit though....the one before Swissvale.... Never mind. :-P

If it wasn't for those arrows I would STILL get lost!

-Tina

*** Edited 7/6/2006 3:58:35 AM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***


We got the friends on film trying to negotiate Pitt!

Don't we Tina?

Chuck

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 12:54 PM
Like Beeman said, that's definitely the Rankin bridge. The "come to a T, huge arrow up on the hill" is a giveaway.

The "other" bridge being referred to is the High Level (or Homestead Grays) bridge, which is currently a royal pain in the behind. It's being refurbished, and is down to one lane in each direction. There was a time that would have been the route I'd have recommended to anyone headed to Kennywood from the west, but not until the construction is done.

--Greg, who'll be at Kennywood on Saturday for his employer's company picnic, and NEXT weekend for KennyKon

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 2:39 PM
^Yeah, THAT bridge. The one near Sandcastle. The "three exits" thing comes after that, though. I don't remember exact street names or routes. I just go by memory and familar sights nowadays. :-) That construction is a pain in the butt indeed!

Chuck, you didn't get me and Bill bickering about directions. That would of been more hilarious to get on tape. ;) We were coming from Cedar Point heading to our friend's house in West Mifflin. It was raining, cold, and I was tired and cranky....too funny!

Me: "I don't know where the f*** I am going. I am going to Kennywood and call her from there! At least I know how to get to Kennywood!" "I know she lives around HERE somewhere!"

Bill on the cell phone trying to get to our friend's house while trying to help me navigate.. "What do you mean there are three exits in a row? Take the SECOND one?" "No way can there be.....WTF? There is!"

:) Good times!

-Tina

*** Edited 7/6/2006 6:52:48 PM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 3:05 PM
^ LOL! "I'm going to >Kennywood> since I at least know HOW to get there."

"Why go in the WRONG direction just to get the park, when we're not visiting until TOMORROW..."

Good times! :)


...and now Greg has me worried about my impending August visit to the 'Wood...I need some "gator positioning system"... ;)

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 3:12 PM
So when you going to KW Bill? Sheesh.

Or is it a event Im not welcome too. thats ok, fine.

Chuck

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 3:16 PM
^ Still working out details, early August sometime..."procrati-gator"... ;)
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Thursday, July 6, 2006 3:47 PM
Kennywood is EASY to get to, it's just suburban Pittsburgh that's difficult to get around. ;-)

-Tina

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 5:16 PM
Giant Freakin' Splash rides! Gotta love 'em. And the term "violently ambivalent" should become part of everyone's vocabulary. :) Nice TR, BTW, although I still can't figure out how many Stu's were there.

I don't know which part of getting to Kennywood I liked better-- the sign showing the FOUR left turns at various angles or the 5-way intersection that didn't have the "arrow" pointing the correct way. Coming back was another story. When they say Jct. 376, they mean it, as the first sign you see for it is about 3 feet in front of the on ramp.

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