TR:Minnesota/ Wisconsin 2007 – Day 3
September 1, 2007
Wisconsin Dells, WI -> Valleyfair, MN
T-Shirt of the day: Dark blue Holiday World Raven/Legend shirt
As you recall from Day 2, we spent most of the day in Wisconsin Dells yesterday, and decided to stay the night. It really makes sense, as the trip is 4 hours one way, staying the night just helps break up the travel, and allows us to stay at night on Day 1. This is the second year we have used this schedule, and last time we sprang for the two day Mt. Olympus passes, and the second day at Mt. O was entirely too crowded.
This year, we decided to have our morning wake up call on Avalanche at Timber Falls. As I mentioned in the Day 2 report: While researching ticket deals, we found a package on Timber Falls website, for $24.95 you could get a POP wristband, and one ticket to ride Skyscraper. This same package would run you $29.95 in the park. That was deal enough for us, but then they had a "Buy 3 tickets, and get the 4th free" promotion. Doing the math of that deal that meant that each of us could have a morning wake up call at Timber Falls for only $12.50 each, including a Skyscraper ride that runs $20 by itself. ($10 with a valid POP armband).
A check of the website revealed the park was set to open at 9AM, but we had our doubts that the rides would be ready that early. Accordingly, we did not check out of the hotel until 9:30. After checking out, we took a ride around the Dells scooping out the best gas bargain. As it turns out the best gas bargain was at a little independent station near Timber Falls. You may recall we were staying by Timber Falls, so most likely any money saved by finding the best gas deal was burned away driving around town. But it gave us an excuse to see the town. There was a big college football game going on somewhere nearby today, and driving down the strip we was more than a few over excited, and maybe drunk, college age people hanging out car windows hooting and hollering as they drove down the strip.
You may recall Timber Falls is located next door to Pirate’s Cove mini golf. We managed to pull into the wrong driveway, and although the Pirate Cove gold looked well landscaped, they just don’t have a wood coaster. So we drove through their lot, I noted the Jolly Roger pirate flags with a red background instead of the traditional black background, and we pulled out the other exit, and drove around next door to Timber Falls. If the park was having a slow night last night, it was absolutely deserted this morning. The only cars pulling in were either staff coming to work, or being dropped off for work. We waited in the car till about 9:50, then we decided to go up to the front counter and see what is going on. I mean, if the rides don’t open till noon, we would have to figure out a Plan B.
We walked up to the counter and met some guy who looked like he might be the manager. From him we learned that the mini golf does, in fact, open at 9AM, ad the rides open at 10AM. Perfect timing, and the Skyscraper will open at 11AM. The manager scanned our tickets and gave us our wristbands, but even he seemed a little surprised when we pointed out to him that our tickets included the Skyscraper ride. Must not be a common option that people select online. While we waited for the rides to open, he offered to get us set up for a game of mini golf, and Jerry was fast to respond he had no interest in mini golf. Instead, we used the 10 minutes until park opening to take photographs.
. In the front center of the park is the clubhouse with tickets, merchandise, snack bar, arcade, restrooms and a second floor observation deck. Behind the clubhouse there are 2 mini golf courses, wrapped through and around the mini golf courses is the parks log flume ride. The Avalanche coaster runs around the perimeter of this area, and just outside the bounds created by the coaster are some bumper boats, and sitting out in the parking lot is a Skyscraper. Accross the street from the park are two more mini golf courses they own, and then the river. On the other side of the park is a competing mini golf operation.
Right at 10AM, we head right up the stairs and ramp to the Avalanche station. Avalanche is a triangular shaped coaster that basically runs around the perimeter of the park. We arrive at the station, and head for the back car of a waiting train. Queue gates open and we board the 3 car 2-bench PTC train. Bars checked, we pull out of the station, left turn to the lift, up the lift, first drop, up into the second turn to the left, then a few speed hills. The third turn is a signature element, its a turn that is just so wrong that it feels so right. You pull into an underbanked curve that tries to manhandle the train through a 270 degree turn. Did I mention the apex of the turn is the top of a hill, so you go into this curve, and it slams you to the right side of the train, then you come over the hill, get lifted out of your seat by the airtime, then the train finishes the curve and it slams you back to the left, as it puts you back down in your seat. It's a great element, and if you didn't like that, you'll love the next speed hill with ejector air that slams you up into the lap bar, holds you there for a second or two, then slams you back down into the seat. You do another left turn as you fly by the station, for the second trip around the park, you ride closer to the ground with a series of speed hills for the first two sides, each one with nice airtime.. The third side on the second lap around is mostly concerned with a final dip and rise up into the brake run. It's the kind of coaster that doesn't look like much from the road, but once you ride it, it will hook you in one ride. I also have to officially dispell the rumor that a trim brake was added to this ride, that's not true. The grapevine has it that that the park though they bit off more than they could chew with the upkeep of this ride, but at least they are still running it.
We basically spent the next hour just riding Avalanche over and over and over and over again. During this time, we got a demonstration that Timber Falls knows they can't compete with Mt. Olympus with rides, but they can compete by having much friendlier staff, and more customer friendly policies. For example, you can ride as long as no one wants your seat, and if someone does want your seat, you can either find a new seat, or exit back to the load side. Did I mention we had tons of rides, like an hour straight. We had near ERT conditions all morning. Occasionally a family would come up to the station, hand in some ride tickets ($6 each), take a ride and then leave, but for the most part we had the ride all to ourselves.
Shortly after 11AM, after we had confirmed we saw life over at Skyscraper, we exited Avalanche and headed back to the clubhouse. Instead of going directly to the Skyscraper, we headed through the arcade, and out the back door. This leads you to the Timber Falls Log Ride. We walk up to and get in a waiting boat. I admit, I was a bit surprised when Jerry came in after me, last time we were here, he sat the log ride out. He did, however, make sure I sat up front.
We got into the log, and you leave the station and make a slight jog to the left, and go up the first lift. After going up the first life you immediately go own the first drop which helps gives speed to the log. The second part of the ride concerns itself with the fake volcano in the middle of the park. (It even erupts occasionally). The log first goes through a cave inside the volcano, then goes around the outside of the volcano. After it has wrapped itself around the outside of the volcano, you start up the much taller second lift that runs along the back of the park. A turn to face the front of the park, and you go up one more slight rise, past the operator’s booth then down the big drop. It’s a very well themed log ride for such a small park, and its actually a nice long fun ride. Water damage was minimal. At the end of the ride, they offered to send us around again, but we declined that offer, and decided to exit the ride. I had offered to switch places in the log with Jerry, but Jerry wasn’t interested in that either. So we exited the log to the infield side, and then climbed across the bridge that takes you over the trough. That done, it was time for the spin dryer, otherwise known as the Skyscraper. He was still getting the Skyscraper ready, but was willing to take us for a ride. Wait a minute, it’s the same guy as last night, and he remembers us. When he commented that we were back so soon, I explained the great ticket offer we had.
We first stowed everything in the car, then walked over to the Skyscraper where there was immediate seating available, and we were escorted directly to the ride deck.
The ride deck consists of the loose article bins, operator console, and the access way to the ride itself. We step off the wood deck onto the metal platform and then hop into the chairs provided. It takes some time to get ready to ride Skycraper thanks to the complex harness arrangement. After the operator makes sure you are sitting all the way back in the chair, no slouching, he proceeds to strap you in. The harness system on Skyscraper is similar to but not totally like having two 3 point automotive harnesses, one located on either side of you. They key difference being the belts are not on retractors and are manually adjusted. So I sit down and the operator pulls two thick pieces of black padding out from the sides of the seat and ask me to hold them over my lap. He then reaches over my right shoulder and proceeds to cross that strap across my chest so that it fastens into to a clip/buckle mounted on the left side of the seat, this is also connected to a lap belt. He proceeds to tighten this until it is snug but not tight. He then reaches above the left shoulder and pulls out a similar looking belt that runs diagonally across your chest and fastens to a clip located on the right side of the seat. This means the two shoulder belts form a large "X" across your chest, and you effectively have double lap belts for added redundant protection. The operator proceeds to pull these belts snug but not tight. He then takes a moment to make sure everything looks to be correct with the safety harness, and then goes in and yanks on all the adjustors with all of his might to get all the belts as skin tight as he can get them. You then realize those two big black pads sit directly under the buckles and adjustors and they protect your legs from any nasty gashes from the buckles. This would also be a good reason to make sure your pockets are empty to make sure the thick straps don't crush any hard objects into your legs. The last step is to take the anti sub strap and to affix it to the front center of the lap straps. Men are thankful this belt is not tightened. He proceeded to step next chair and harness Jerry to his seat in the same manner. After all the harnessing the operator takes a step back to make one final visual inspection while thinking "Now I have you two right where I want you, you guys aren't getting out of those chairs until I let you, so for the next few minutes you belong to me and whatever I can dish out"
While he was strapping us in, he had this big grin on his face that said, "I'm gonna have so much fun!" In, fact he looked even more excited than last night.
He started the ride, and instead of going right into doing the usual loops on this giant propeller ride, he starts by rocking us back and forth, not unlike how a looping ship ride starts. Eventually we start making complete loops, but still not much action. A few loops later, and he starts to play with the speed control, and we find ourselves flipping almost continuously. We do this for several rotations, we then stop at the top of the ride, and pause for a breather while the ride starts shaking left and right, huh? Then it was time to do it all in reverse, lots more flips, and as we came into the loading dock he started jogging the main arm back and forth. We then come into the station and he lets us off the ride, clearly quite pleased with himself. The difference was the time he let the ride go much longer, which meant a lot more flips. It was also different in that instead of staying skin tight, my harness loosened up significantly, not dangerously loose, mind you but loose enough to slide around a bit in the chair which adds to the excitement of the ride.
After Skyscraper, we go back up to Avalanche to say bye, and had a short 15 minute mini session on Avalanche. At around 11:30, we decided to head back to Minneapolis, but not before taking a little ride over to Mt. Olympus’ parking lot to take photos of Hades, Zeus, Top Secret, Riverview Park, and both the Original and Army DUCKS. Leaving Mt. Olympus, Jerry knew better than to try to make a left turn onto the main drag, sowe rode to the other end of the strip, and looped back around using a different freeway entrance.
We then headed back to Minneapolis, and as if they aren’t enough waterpark resorts in the Dells, Jerry pointed out a new one that is just an hour closer. Not much goes on during the ride back, except a stop at Arby’s As we get closer to Valleyfair, the traffic starts getting heavy, and Jerry notes it is a bit heavier than he would expect.
We soon arrive at Valleyfair, and take one look at the parking lot. Jerry said, “If it weren’t for you being here, I would be turning this car around and going home” Yep, the place looked insanely jammed. Yes, I know it’s a Saturday and wonderful weather out, but with both the State Fair and Rennasiance fairs in session you might think they would have a slow weekend. Nope.
We pull into the lot, and using Jerry’s window sticker, avoid the $10 parking fee. One of the advantages of the window sticker is that Jerry merely slowed to a crawl at the toll plaza and was waved on through. Despite the crowded parking lot, we find a space near where Jerry would park anyway. We then make a stop to deal with some issues that come from 4 hour car rides, then I know better than to head to the season pass gate, so I take my Maxx Pass directly to the Guest Service office. Using the Maxx Pass was simple, they wrote my name on a log sheet and checked the box marked “Kings Island”. That’s it, they have no way of verifying your identity as the pass had no photo and they had no monitor sitting there. They next open the secret panel, and I enter the park through Guest Services.
Once inside the park, the fact the park was crowded was confirmed by the packed midways. We headed straight to Rennegade, which is almost but not quite in the back of the park. The park has done a good job of keeping Renegade’s track plan a secret, from the park midway, all you can see is the lift hill, and the final part of the ride where you circle the station, then the queue area before heading to the final brakes. The entrance and exit sit next to each other as two cutouts in the track structure in this final pass. We enter the queue and find a pretty full queue maze, with all but one switchback in use.
Jerry estimated the queue at around 45 minutes and was pretty close. The first section is a set of switchbacks positioned inside the final turnaround, you then go on a long straight section from the final turn to just before the lift approach. The queue then jogs to the left, then goes through a tunnel under the lift approach, and then heads to the transfer track building, You then go into a opening in the side of the transfer track building and into a long straight wide hallway. I mentioned that this hallway, at least 6-8 people wide, must be a line jumping nightmare. Jerry said it isn’t, and the park is nice enough to put in fans so there is a nice cross current to keep you cool. You step up to get into the building, then at the other end there is another step down, which seems to serve no purpose other than a tripping hazard. You see, about 10’ after you take that one step down, you go up the stairs to the station area, where you enter the station roughly in the middle.
As we entered the station, Jerry asked if I wanted the View or the Experience. I chose the Experience and we headed to the back car. Within two trains, I was climbing into the back car of the milinneum flyer train. I really like GCIs rolling stock, particularly after riding PTCs the day before. The GCI trains feel like sofas on wheels. Jerry had mentioned that at first there were problems with the lap bars and larger riders, but this seems to be sorted out now. I did notice the park went with individual seatbelts, where other GCI’s I have ridden used shared belts.
So, we are seated in the train, and we leave the station a turn to the left takes up to and up the lift. We go over the lift and down the first drop, the first drop is the rides signature element, as first you make a right turn going down the drop, then a left curve to straighten the drop back out. It is an evil first drop, at the base of the drop you turn left, and go over a speed hill that produces some nice floater airtime. You then start dong the GCI typical ride of going around a series of curves while going gracefully up and down in this twister like section. John Allen said it best “Curves don’t do anything for people”. After a glass smooth twisty ride, you reemerge next to the lift hill, and then make a right turn to go around the station with a big swooping trademark GCI turnround right by the midway, the next section is so close to the midway the only thing separating you is a metal grate fence. Time for a speed hill places in just the right spot to become the rides focal point from the midway. You then go through an elongated turnaround that wraps around the queue area, and the on ride photo is taken just before the last curve. You then head into the station where they have a combination of magnetic and traditional braking to ensue a very smooth stop in the bake run/transfer area. Then when the station ahead of you is clear, there is one last turnaround into the station. It’s a neat ride, but Jerry seemed offended that I only give it a B. Sorry, I just need more airtime with my curves, that said the ride could be very reridable if the chance presented itself.
We exited the ride, and headed back to Excalibur. Excalibur: The Coaster in Exile,there is never a significant wait for Excalibur. We are stopped on the way back to Excalibur by some of Jerry’s friends, who deliver the bad news. The members of the family who decided to ride Excalibur have been in line for almost an hour. Yikes. Excalibur is a neat Arrow mine ride, but it’s not an hour neat, particularly since the ride itself is pretty short. The problem is that they were only running 1 train on it. A look at the queue was frightening as it was backed up to the Thunder Canyon exit. Jerry and his friends shared the opinion that this may be the most crowded they have seen Valleyfair in a long time. Clearly, Excalibur was out of the picture.
We did go back to ride Renegade with Jerry’s friends. I took a fair amount of grief, as instead of going for a courtesy ice water, I instead went with a Lemom/Lime Chill. I also forgot to ask about rumors at the Lemon Chill stand. Refreshments in hand, we entered the now totally full Renegade queue, a wait which was made even longer as the ride went down for maintenance for about 15 minutes just as we were nearing the end of the switchback area. This time, when we got to the top of the stairs, Jerry’s friends headed to the back car, and we headed to the front car, and joined the front seat queue, and waited that out. I then got my Renegade with visuals ride. Yeah, that first drop is even more evil looking up front.
We then decided to go over and see how things were going at Wild Thing. One look at the queue and we were soon heading away from Wild Thing. Extreme Swing had a queue overflowing its queue area, Power Tower’s line looked nasty as well. It was already nearing 7PM on an 8PM close. We gave up hope on riding much of anything else tonight, but then the goal was to ride Renegage, just in case it wasn’t open on Sunday,and we rode Renegade, so the objective for the visit was met.
I noted a relatively short line for Riptide, but Riptide was in douse the riders mode, and the sun was going down. I think I’ll save Riptide for the morning. I was more surprised that when we walked by Enterprise, it was a total walk on. Hey, I can’t pass this up, so we walked right onto Enterprise.
I walked around to the next available car, proceeded to get in and immediately slammed the car door closed, then proceeded to work on fastening the belt that goes from the car door to the buckle on the back of the seatback. Jerry, who was in the car behind me, kept screaming “No!”. Don’t know what got into him, but we proceeded to have an incident free fun Enterprise ride. On our way off the Enterprise, Jerry proceeded to lecture me that at Valleyfair, they are anal retentive and don’t want you closing the cage doors yourself, and that he had a ride operator give him grief about it on a past ride. Oh well.
We then walked down by Steel Venom to get greeted by another frightening looking queue. I did go ahead and try the test seat while I was down there, and it said I could ride. Things are looking up. I also noted they put their 3 point challenge way down by Steel Venom which seems out of the way, and that theis is still only $5.
After that, we decided to just give up for the night and come back tomorrow. We headed out of the park and beat the traffic out, and went on back to Jerry’s house for the night
Coming up next: Day 4: Valleyfair! And a Mystery Destination!
Watch for it!
Myself and a few friends did Park at MOA on 8/31, VF on 9/1, and Dells on 9/2-9/3. It was a great time! But I agree, VF was uber-packed for labor day weekend.
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