I suppose I’d be best suited to preface this by explaining that if you are looking for a trip report that covers every single detail of a visit to Holiday World, then this isn’t it. I am more of a broad thinker and tend to steer away from notating every bit of minutia such as how many times I may have visited the waterless urinals.
Instead, I wanted to try something different, sort of an analytical comparison. Perhaps this may viewed as an exercise in self indulgence, but I guarantee that it is not at all meant to be. So much has changed within the amusement industry in the past few years, and so much has changed with me, that I could not help but see a correlation.
You see, after a pretty lengthy hiatus from avid coaster riding, park attending and routine submissions to coaster-related message boards, I decided this might be a good opportunity to re-visit the significance that being an “enthusiast” has played in my life, and to tie it into a recap of a recent visit to Holiday World on Friday August 4th.
A Bird In Flight.
In a way, I think my growth as a person can be measured by the amount of attention that amusement parks have been given in my life. The truth is I never expected to walk away from being an avid park/coaster enthusiast. But there was a time when I was completely obsessed, and one day I recognized that. Upon this realization, I made a conscious decision to re-focus my attention and take a big step back.
I do not attribute my wavering interest in parks and coasters to one particular thing, rather a combination. If you were to rewind 3-5 years of my life, you would find me dropping every spare penny (and many pennies that weren’t so spare) to attend every park I could. I was traveling constantly, helping organize coaster-related events, writing articles, being filmed for coaster-related television specials, lecturing grade school classes about roller coasters and was even given a role as a Regional Rep with ACE… a role I relinquished after admittedly having no interest or desire to fulfill it.
You see, the very weekend that I began in that role, a terrible event led me to begin to make the conscious decision to step away from the “responsibilities” that had developed from my avid coastering. I do not care to re-visit the tragedy at Holiday World (and shudder to even bring it up here) it’s better left behind. But I feel pressed to say that those moments, and the days and weeks that followed broke a child-like spirit in me.
Add in the fact that I soon after, I met someone that would turn my world on end. Someone that would wake me up from the life I was living in my head, and show me how important it was for me to live the life God gave me. No, it wasn’t some religious awakening. But it was a realization of my desire to replace frivolous things with the chance at love. I am forever grateful of that lesson.
My favorite part of the Raven at Holiday World has always come near the end of the ride. Just before the train screams into the final brake run, there’s a directional change. The track is curving right, then hops upwards and immediately veers left. It’s a tremendous moment of being out of control, not to mention out of your seat, and literally being surprised by a twist. No matter how many times I ride the coaster, I am consistently energized by this moment. What follows is an abrupt stop in the brakes with a slow glide into the station.
It’s a reassuring feeling that life, like the Raven, allows you to slow way down after such a dramatic change. It’s in that instant that you recognize you have just survived a wild journey, and you are euphoric about reaching your intended destination. I really enjoy life, perhaps which is why I enjoy the Raven so much.
The Liberty to be Launched
Patience has never been one of my virtues.
I get my impatience honestly. It comes from my Dad. He’s probably the most impatient man I have ever known. He wants things done right, but he also wants things done quickly. He’s a retired Air Force Master Sergeant that went on to become an Engineer and work for NASA… that should say it all.
Along with that impatience, I obtained my love of parks and coasters from him. I can recall being a small child and loving the feeling of being tossed up in the air and caught by my Dad. As I grew, he made sure to take our family to a park on a yearly basis. I was lucky enough to be taken to Busch Gardens, Kings Island, Kings Dominion, Disney World, Epcot, Hersheypark etc. etc. etc. many in their early years. I was fascinated by them. I devoured our times at these parks, and they are among my most cherished childhood memories.
Doesn’t it seem terribly ironic to have a love of parks, and a terrible lack of patience too? I cannot think of a better example of the oil-and-water effect than placing an impatient person in a crowded amusement park. It’s an exercise in futility!
Ironically, it was at these parks that my Dad demonstrated great patience. You see, I was scared to death of riding coasters until I was around 10 years old. At the parks we visited prior to my willingness to ride, he never once pushed. He never once became impatient with me if I “wimped out.”
He does like to recall, however, the time he waited with me for nearly 2 hours for a brand new ride called “The Time Shaft” at Kings Dominion. It was buried deep into “Lost World Fantasy Mountain” and of course curiosity got the best of me. I had to see what was in that mountain, what everyone was waiting in such a long line for.
Well, once inside, I took one look at the “Rotor” and heard people shrieking and screaming. I quickly demanded we make a hasty retreat out. I know in his heart he was aggravated, but he never once put me down or scolded me about it.
There was quite a wait for Liberty Launch at Holiday World. It’s a fun S&S shot tower that, judging by the long wait, people obviously enjoy. My first try at riding was met with my own impatience. I was not about to waste considerable time in that sun-laden queue. However it’s a fun little ride that still amazingly intrigues me. That is probably because it delivers that same euphoric feeling of being tossed in the air by my father.
To pass up Liberty Launch seems unthinkable. So I revisited later in the day, at which time I rode. I guess the lesson learned here is not only that patience is a virtue, but that all things happen in their own time. And as long as we do not force it, things eventually come around.
Sailing the Stormy Seas
I am beginning to think that the ravages of old age are beginning to worm their way into my life. It’s an odd feeling to feel as though I should be 20-something, only to be reminded by my body that I am a man fast approaching middle age.
I started a heavy duty workout routine over a year ago to literally re-shape my body. You see, I subscribe to the school of choices. I think that as we age, and as pounds begin to mount, it’s our choice to either give our body additional attention, or to submit to the demons known as chips, cookies and Ben and Jerry’s. Obviously, there comes a time in everyone’s life that their body needs more TLC to keep it in the best operating condition. My Brother and Sister, not to mention both of my parents, have fought the battle of the bulge in their adult years… and lost.
Well, I was determined, and remain determined, to win my battle. It’s been a great thing mentally; however the undaunted determination to have my best possible physique has been met with some sideline effects: a bone spur from running too much, a much more sensitive equilibrium, achy joints and quite a bit less “padding” on my bones.
I took a Voyage, actually two, at Holiday World. The Voyage is a magnificent structure at the park, visually stunning. Its addition, as well as the addition of the entire Thanksgiving section, has really taken HW to a different level. The area actually now makes HW feel like a “big park” to me. It’s a much grander level than the previous one I used to describe as being “like playing on Will Koch’s backyard swing set.”
The lack of padding on me was made more than a bit apparent when riding Voyage. It is not a smooth coaster by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps it had more to do with my absence from riding a “new” coaster in well over a year. Maybe I was out of practice. Maybe because I had not studied the layout. For whatever reason, I was completely caught off guard by its absolutely uncontrolled second half. Maybe I am just a wimp.
None-the-less, the old man in me did not enjoy it. It ranks as one of the roughest rides I have ever taken on a coaster. The kids I watched all seemed to enjoy it though, so I guess I relinquish my title as a know-it-all enthusiast to those who obviously know fun better than I.
That in mind, I compensated by downing a loaded funnel cake later in the day. After all, calories don’t count at an amusement park, and apparently I could use the padding.
What’s for dinner?
I am not a parent. Well, at least not to my knowledge. And I doubt I ever will be… well, not by “natural” means. However, I am a bi-product of a strong family unit.
I credit the bond of my family, and the positive way that my siblings (and if I may say so… I) turned out, to our communication and sharing of ideas and experiences around the dinner table. I firmly believe that the breakdown in our society could be easily remedied by forcing people to share meal time together as a family at least once a day.
As a decidedly single male, I have to admit that the observation of the family dynamic is a complete fascination to me. I marvel at how parents can have the energy (and here’s that word again… patience) to deal with their kids at an amusement park. Lord knows I left HW exhausted after just dragging myself around the park all day. I cannot begin to fathom how exhausting it is to lug strollers uphill… or pry crying kids away from $5 win-a-doll games… or to make sure that they do not get out of your sight and into harm’s way. My hat is off to every Momma and Daddy that’s able to do that. I wish them all good night’s sleep.
But as daunting as the task of being a parent at an amusement park may seem, it also instills a feeling of longing. It’s a unique desire I have to be able to see a park through a child’s eyes again.
I expect that is why rides like “Gobbler Getaway” exist. Sure, it’s fun. Sure, it’s bright. Sure it’s full of elaborate animated and electronic effects sure to entertain. But more importantly, it’s a family experience. Substitute the dinner table with a moving turkey car and you get the same result, a bonding moment.
This attraction, in itself, is (IMO) the best installation that Holiday World has made in recent years. Will Koch no doubt understands the importance of the family experience. I can only imagine the bond his own family had, and how that plays a daily role in the decisions he makes with Holiday World. IMO life gets no sweeter than sharing a pizza on Thanksgiving… and that’s no turkey.
Having spent thousands of dollars on frivolous trips to amusement parks across the country year after year, I was in debt. No, I wasn’t in debt… I was in dire financial breakdown. I simply had not been smart.
Walt Disney World? No problem… charge it!
Six Flags Over Texas? Of course I’ll go… charge it!
Paramount Parks season pass? Do you take Visa, Mastercard, and American Express?
Six Flags season pass? Sure, I think I can get my credit limit extended.
I will never forget the sound of hearing my avid addiction to coastering across the US hitting the final financial brake run. It came about 2 ½ years ago on the heels of a 6-month period in which I visited all Florida, California and Midwest parks, plus attended every enthusiast event (not to mention IAAPA) that vacation time would allow.
What the heck was I thinking?
The worst part was, those trips were all a big blur and I couldn’t really pick out momentous occasions, or significant rides at them. However, I could (and can) distinctly recall the persons I shared those visits with.
It had to stop. I was a park-a-holic.
2 years of extreme financial budgeting, and credit counseling later, I am nearing the end of one of the toughest lessons I have ever taught myself. Yes, I considered filing bankruptcy. However, I decided I needed to experience the hardships of climbing out of debt myself. Otherwise, without learning that lesson the hard way, my life would likely be one of constant financial worry and hardships. I am very goal oriented, and love a good challenge. Man, has it been a challenge.
The days of park hopping were over. The days of season passes were on hold for the indefinite future. No more coaster events. Heck, I even dropped my $50-a-year ACE Membership because I felt getting those magazines chock full of mouth-watering coasters would be too much of a temptation for me. I wanted a home too much. I wanted to not have to worry about where the money would come from should my car break down. I wanted to just “be” instead of “being in debt.”
You must have money to live. I have no idea how people survive without a lot of it. I have no idea how people afford a large family. I have no idea how people of limited means treat their families to a day at a park.
On second thought, yes I do. They go to Holiday World.
Holiday World is, without a doubt, the most financially pleasurable park I can think of. Holiday World was my first, and only, visit to any park this year. I have not even stepped foot into Paramount’s Kings Island since June of last year (With the exception of the freebie Winterfest media day I was invited to). I know that is a statement that probably draws shock and horror from those coaster friends close to me. “Shaggy has stopped going to PKI!” But it’s true, I went cold Turkey. Gobble gobble.
Of course I made the decision a few weeks ago to treat myself to a rare park visit. I chose Holiday World because of its value and because of its new attractions. I budgeted $100 for it, and stuck to that budget. Although things come cheaper at Holiday World than most parks, and I was finding myself well under my allotted budget, the fact is I still spent my entire $100.00.
That is why I greatly admire Will Koch. He’s an EXTREMELY smart business man. What little I know of Will would probably lead me to believe that upon hearing something like that, he’d kick the dirt and say “Aww shucks” in a Jimmy Stewart kind of way. But it’s true. It’s very wise to understand that customers perceive value as an opportunity to spend more.
Why, all day throughout the park I overheard fellow guests raving about how reasonable everything was. “Wow! Our whole family ate a complete meal for $17.00!” In a season where gas rings up at $3.15 a gallon, and other parks all increase parking fees, not to mention admission prices, general word of mouth like that is worth it’s weight in platinum.
In the immortal words of Tim Gunn… Carry on Will.
Oh the shame.
I pretty much stopped wearing park-related shirts sometime back. My casual wardrobe, at some point, was about 75% clothing that advertised a park or ride of some sort. While I respect those that wear park related merchandise, I have since weaned myself away from it.
Never-the-less, I still, on rare occasion, wear park clothing. And I have a few shirts that have managed to stay in my closet. For instance, I wore a t-shirt to Holiday World that I own as a souvenir from a trip taken long ago to Lake Winnie. Fact is, I wore it to HW because it was old and I could cut the sleeves off without remorse. It was a scorcher of a day.
When I ventured to the front gate of Holiday World that morning, I was greeted with the following statement: “Lake Winnie – I know those folks.” Those words were spoken to me by Mrs. Pat Koch who was directing inattentive guests out of the path of the parking lot tram. I don’t *know* Mrs. Koch, but you can’t help but know *of* her. She’s a legend (pun intended) in her own time.
I was walking by inconspicuously, but the shirt I was wearing obviously caught her attention. She proceeded to ask me a little more, something along the lines of “When were you there?” and I explained that I had not been there for a few years.
I then had a major slip of the tongue… I revealed that I was a “coaster enthusiast.”
I had just stuck my foot in my mouth.
Obviously concentrating on her primary job, the conversation with Mrs. Koch was finished with that remark. I have no idea if it was the result of concern that may still exist over the threat of the past, or if it had to do with some guest getting in the way of the tram. Needless to say, I moved on and so did she.
I hate the feeling I had, and hate the thought that she may have that feeling. She likely didn’t give it another thought. But I am not sure I like the idea that being an “enthusiast” can hold some sort of a negative connotation, or remorse, or that it could possibly be of great concern to those that operate and love a park they helped build.
The Long Way Around
I never liked the beach. I avoided the pool. I couldn’t stand swimming in lakes. However I loved the water.
You see, I was embarrassed. I was modest.
As a kid I was fair-skinned, and never had a tan. I always felt flabby and physically inferior to others. I also felt that spending time in a water park amounted to wasted coaster riding time, and that spending time swimming in a lake took away from valuable TV time.
Age and maturity has a way of curtailing your insecurities. Although not nearly as fair, or as flabby as I once was, the bottom line is time has allowed me to adapt a “Who gives a care what others think” attitude. Letting go of those worries has led to really fun times for me. And once I let go, I took a good look around and realized I don’t look half as bad as most do in the water park.
I took me way too long to learn that lesson. But that’s just “me.” I have often taken the longer, less traveled path in life.
I am now a water park convert, and I feel free to enjoy myself at them. It’s good to know that Holiday World is around the corner and offers a good one for when the feeling to be half-naked outdoors in water hits me. Yes, Splashin’ Safari is the crux of the park. Yes, it literally stays MOBBED throughout the day. Yes, the lines are long. But on the flip side, it offers a new angle of enjoyment.
I love the large slides. I love the wave pool. But most of all I think I love the lazy river. Amidst all that chaos exists this peaceful little jaunt around in a water filled trough. Well, peaceful is relative to how many kids you get kicking water around your inner tube. But none-the-less, it can be a nice break away from the hectic feeling of a busy park.
I guess that’s why I enjoyed Bahari River the most. It offered me the chance to peacefully relax and take it all in. It moved kind of fast at times, but I like a speedier flow in life. The most significant thing about Bahari River was the fact that it offered two paths to take.
I took two laps. There’s an island that splits the water about 3/4 of the way around. I chose to go around the “short way” first and the “long way” the second time. In the end, I think I prefer the latter. Again, it’s just “me,” I am just somehow more comfortable taking the long way around.
Don’t Look Back
I am a man of routine. I like lists. I thrive on organization. I am a neat freak, and feel cleanliness is next to Godliness. Is it any wonder why I also love coasters?
The reasoning is simple. They offer a rare chance for me to totally let go, to fly by the seat of my pants, to forget all the lists and organization and enjoy the unbridled chaos.
A rollercoaster gives me literally no opportunity to rationalize what I am doing. With the exception of a lift hill, there is often very little time on a coaster where someone can ponder the decision they made about riding. Once that thing takes off, you are living every moment right then and there. You are surviving each hop, twist, loop or drop as it comes. You are not concerned about what you have already experienced, or what lies down the track. You are just holding on and enjoying that very element.
Perhaps colleges should offer a course, or the government should invest in a study regarding the brain’s desire to seek thrills. More than likely, someone has already performed a study on thrill seeking. No matter, I guarantee that the outcome of the study would be simple. People enjoy living for the moment. It’s exciting, it’s adventurous, and it goes against the rules.
The Legend remains my favorite ride at Holiday World. The Legend remains one of my favorite coasters of all time. The Legend is a great ride. After the short flight of the Raven, and after the rough journey of the Voyage, it was reassuring to know that I still had something to look forward to.
And isn’t that what it’s all about? Looking forward? To quote the immortal words of Jonathan Larson: “Forget regret or life is yours to miss.”
I love history. I always have. I like to know where things come from. I like to know what events led us to where we are. So it’s hard for me to look forward, when I enjoy revisiting the past so much. I think that life is a long series of snapshots that in the end form one big portrait of our lives. That idea fascinates me.
Sometimes, your life’s portrait may be a Rembrandt - an exquisitely beautiful masterpiece, but laden with darkness. Or it may end up being a Davinci - something complicated, and minutely detailed. Perhaps your life is like a work of Salvador Dali - Oddly twisted, and hard for people to understand, yet unique. Maybe it’s a Picasso – Crazed, but full of vibrant colors and fun. Even yet, it could be a Van Gogh – extraordinarily and simply beautiful.
I was anxious to pick up a copy of Mrs. Koch’s salute to the 60 year history of Holiday World. It’s a coffee-table type picture book that traces the park’s vast past, and the family that created it. This is the type of souvenir I devour. I love to look at older pictures and try to put the puzzle together of what it must have been like to visit the park in the 1960’s. Or to try and imagine how different it must have been entering the park from a completely different side of the property. It’s fun to see pictures taken prior to any rollercoaster being built. And of course it’s also fun to see how Mrs. Koch’s hair-do’s have changed over the years.
But most importantly, it’s sweet to see, in photographic detail, how a loving family bond lasting generation after generation formed a place that thousands of people have enjoyed together as families. I hope that the future Koch children and grandchildren (and great grandchildren… and great, great grandchildren… and *sigh* you get the idea) grow to recognize this vast and amazing past, and continue to carry on the tradition their ancestors laid before them. Their future, and the future of Holiday World rests on their ability to look back, look forward, understand and carry on.
Sentimental? Me? Naaaah. Never.
Okay, I admit that this “trip report” was about as saccharine as they come. And Lord knows it’s been like writing War and Peace. I apologize if you have suffered through this only to think of what a complete moron I am for putting all of this down on paper… errr… internet. So if you didn’t enjoy it, or found it a waste of time, just pretend you read Bill Clinton’s autobiography instead. My ramblings couldn’t have been nearly that bad.
It’s good to know that no matter how much I evolve and change, one basic principle still remains. Life is about fun, and I like to have it.
Thanks for allowing me this time to have fun, and express myself.
*** Edited 8/8/2006 5:51:59 PM UTC by Shaggy***
Nice job Shaggy!
Thanks for posting.
I totally agree with about everything else you stated and have experienced many of the things you mention.
My 97-2003 trips left me several grand with mega interest in debt and I tried to do it the cheap way with camping and hitting several parks in one swoop.
Lack of desire or little kid in me being lost over the SRM incident.
Lack of visits to parks. Last year I only did Geauga, KP and Conneaut, strickers and HW.
This year I've only done HW twice including HWN and strickers and I feel no dying desire to get to any others.
Is getting older mean becoming more content? or have I just found the right afordable and satisfying nitch?
Chuck, who's also dabbled in the love dept a couple times in the last couple years but shes still gotta like coasters :)
I'm 30 and I'm perfectly happy sitting around the house most evenings, watching TV or playing video games - even Fridays and Saturdays. Going to parks seems like a lot of trouble these days... gotta get someone to watch the dog, gotta drive long hours and pay lots of money... when the reality is, I'd probably be just as happy if I stayed at home.
I live about 2 hours from PKI and CP, yet I haven't been to either this year. I may not make it to either before the year's up, and I probably won't care. Eight or nine years ago, I'd feel like a loser if I didn't go to PKI at least two or three times, and spend the entire day there from open to close. I can't remember the last time I did go to a park and stayed till close... most times I leave around 3 or 4 p.m., having done everything I want to do. Even at HW earlier this year, I'd had enough by 3 p.m. (two Voyage rides, one Raven ride, Gobbler Getaway and a few water slides).
About Voyage? Yeah... you're right. Glad someone else sees what a nasty ride that is. Yes, it's great... but no... it's not.
Take care, and stop in more often. Good, good, good read! :)
There are just things that have come before coasting lately. Work, non-coaster friends, the ladies, and just relaxing have all found a bigger part of my life lately.
It's not that I can't afford to go ride coasters, it's just that I don't want to be bothered to make the trips anymore. I guess my priorities have changed and it's easier to make me happy now.
Shaggy- It's good to see you back, man. Thanks for the provoking thoughts.
Welcome back, my friend!
About Voyage? Yeah... you're right. Glad someone else sees what a nasty ride that is. Yes, it's great... but no... it's not.
Are we talking about the same ride here?
Voyage is aggressive and intense. It's certainly not rough.
My opinion rules.
That is all.
I enjoyed Voyage the first ride. That's it. I always love when people say the ride is aggressive. You bet your ass it's aggressive. That said, it's not just aggressive to me. It's miles past it. It's far too much for far too long. Sure, it's fun, but I'd have liked it to end about a mile back. ;)
The ending is amazing. It's also terrifying at night. You really do feel like you're going to fly off the track. It's the only coaster, save the PNE mouse, that I've actually been afraid of at certain moments.
Do I like it? Kind of. Would I ride it again? Absolutely. I want to like it more. Maybe I'm old, or a wuss, or tired, or I was burnt out that day at HWN. Don't know. Don't care. I didn't like it. Sue me.
Raven Maven said:
Not to worry, John.
We have too many people named John around here...
It's starting to confuse me more than usual.
*** Edited 8/10/2006 1:20:55 PM UTC by Michael Darling***
A grad student came in to buy software and had her children with her, one a girl of about 10 or 11 who saw my Cedar Point pictures in my office and began talking to me about CP.
I mentioned my upcoming trip to Holiday World, not expecting them to know about the park (I'm in Michigan) and was surprised the mom knew all about HW...about the recent awards for cleanest and friendliest park, that the waterpark was included and they had free drinks and sunscreen. They'd never been to the park, are not coaster enthusiasts (in fact they still haven't ridden anything larger than Magnum at CP), but have "heard a lot about Holiday World" and want to go just because it sounds like the "perfect family park".
So obviously word is spreading outside of the enthusiast community.
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