9-2-05 Friday – Gadv, Dorney Park, Knoebels GroveDave ‘Flare’ Fraser and myself left NYC about 7am on Friday. Labor Day weekend trips have become a tradition for me, and in many cases it’s an ideal time to visit certain parks. It was a beautiful morning and the weather reports all leaned towards what was to be a spectacular holiday weekend. The plan of attack for Friday was to head down to the Friday AM season pass ERT at SFGadv then to Dorney Park and then finish the night out at Knoebels where we would meet Kathy Lyons (AKA Coastin’ Aunt Rose). We had some potential add-ons to the trip (Bushkill, Pocono’s GoKarts, Sesame), but none of that came to fruition – in hindsight it would’ve been overkill to an already very crazy, yet perfect, plan.
As we pulled into the parking lot at GAdv there were signs on each parking lot booth indicating that KK was down. We knew in advance the King of Krap was going to be down, but we figured that we could get at least a couple of spins in on Nitro, and Dave still needed to get his S:UF credit. Plus we had the added benefit to meet up with Rob Ackerman (aka FrisbeeKing) whom we hadn’t seen in at least a year+. Rob had a few extra Dorney passes he was willing to part with that we could use later in the day. We caught up with Rob in line for Nitro and also were joined by Bruce Turner, which was a nice surprise. I’m happy to report that Gadv still looks as amazing as it did when I made my first visit this year in May. The security, gate staff, and gate operations are also massively improved over years past. I was afraid that this might deteriorate from initial visit in May and wasn’t paying all that much attention during my visit 2 weeks ago. I’m unhappy to report that ride operations were still really lousy. In past years, ride operations (if a ride was actually open) was one of the Gadv’s stronger points – this year it has not been the case. On my three visits to the park this year, I have never seen more than 2 train ops on Nitro or 1-train ops on Superman. I realize from other TRs that this has not always been the case – but on my three visits it was.
The ERT included Nitro, Batman, and Skull Mountain. Nitro was delivering some pretty spectacular rides. I’ll never love Nitro the way many do, but it’s moving up on my list and is definitely my favorite of the 3 B&M hypers (I have had the opportunity to ride all three this year so it’s been a little easier to compare). We got 2 backseat Nitro rides with minimal waits. Batman was kicking a** as it always does, but having finally ridden the IL original this year with all of it’s theming intact and the wonderful tree growth around it – Gadv’s model seemed barren and most of the theming that once existed has been removed. Ride ops were stacking up a storm. We left the ERT area and rejoined the GP for running of the bulls to Superman at 10am. By the time we reached the queue there were probably 200-250 people in front of us, but it took them a little while to finish testing and they were only loading the station a train at a time with one-train operation. Needless to say, it took about 40 minutes to get on and when we departed the ride the line was almost out to the midway entrance. We said our goodbyes to Rob and Bruce and headed off to Dorney.
We got a little lost in Trenton, and contemplated *momentarily* a stop at Sesame Place. We made it to Dorney Park in just about an hour and a half. The parking lot was quite full, but as most know, the clientele was all at the water park and the rides were walk-ons. Our only requirement for our time at Dorney was to receive the ‘Aquatic beat-down’ (Rapids) and score the Hydra credit – anything beyond that was a bonus. Dorney Park was looking great. My biggest complaint on the appearance of the park (without getting into the loss of history debate) is that bright sun, concrete, and lack of shade are a really bad combination – that seems to be agreed on by most. Cedar Fair seems to be waaaaaaay to enamored with this combination. It’s not that Dorney doesn’t have trees (although there appeared to be even fewer of them on this visit) – it’s just that trees don’t seem to be near walkways in very many places. I’ve never bothered looking for security cameras at Dorney, but I wonder if the lack of trees has a security element to it???
We decided to start at Hydra, which was almost a complete walk-on. They were running 2 trains and operations were stellar. I didn’t have high expectations for Hydra – I hoped that it would be better than SFNE’s B:TDK, which was the last new B&M floorless I had ridden. The first thing I noticed as we approached the ride is that it’s weird to be on a B&M with a station that isn’t at two flights of stairs or more up, and secondly who picks these color schemes??? We waited two trains for a front seat ride for our first ride. I don’t feel it’s necessary to give a blow by blow but I was very under whelmed. The coaster has a very pronounced vibration/rattling throughout the ride and a lot of the forces, especially in the cobra roll, are incredibly tame. We took 4 rides in total (1 front, 1 second row, 1 back row, 1 second to back). I am sure that the general public will like the ride, but it doesn’t even come close to Medusa. I’m not sure why the coaster has the vibrations/rattling, but it was really unexpected and probably the rides biggest overall problem/detraction IMHO.
We moved onto Thunder Canyon (aka the Aquatic Beat-Down). God I love this thing – it’s so twistedly wrong! Waterfall after waterfall after waterfall pummels you – a nice break with lots of spinning – and then more pummeling! It doesn’t have the greatest rapids – it has the greatest waterfalls! And more waterfalls than on any other rapids ride I’ve been on.
We moved onto Talon – again a walk on – and we could see the mob scene in Wild Water Kingdom – the place was packed and the lines were full! I love Talon, unlike its new neighbor there are no vibrations to be had and it’s a consistently potent ride. We dried off enough to reclaim our valuables from our locker and headed down the hill for Timberhawk and Steel Force. Timberhawk would be a top-10 woodie for me if it weren’t for the brakes, but alas… the brakes…sigh…’nuff said. Steel Force is still a solid ride experience in my book – it doesn’t have the thrill factor of the more contemporary Intamin or B&M hypers, but it’s a good fun ride. Dave took a quick spin on Revolution (Chance Morgan Revolution-32) – I don’t think he was impressed but I’ll let him voice his opinion if he chooses. At that point it was closing in on 3pm and we needed to get on the road to Knoebels. We had contemplated hitting Laser and the Whip, but I’m glad we got out of dodge when we did as we pretty quickly hit some gnarly traffic on the 78 that slowed us up quite a bit.
After traversing the traffic of the 78 and the winding roads of the 61 we finally arrived at Knoebels parking lot a little before 6. We arrived to a half-filled lot, which is usually a good sign and met up with Kathy at the wristband booths and off we went. We started with the Phoenix, but not before quickly admiring the almost ready Herschell Looper – they did an amazing job restoring this unit(s). If you had seen the state of the carnival model sitting in the semi earlier in the season it’s pretty amazing, and I’ve been told that the unit they had in their graveyard was in far worse shape than that. Major kudos to all the hard work Knoebels put into bringing this ride back to life – I am very much looking forward to taking several spins at PPP. The Phoenix was running superbly – 1-3 was simply out of control. Any negative thoughts or occurrences from earlier in the day faded into a very distant memory. Knoebels has a way of making everything seem all right. We had a very nice Flyers ride; Dave was asked to cool it at the end, but nothing too unpleasant and also had a very good Twister ride.
Our need for sustenance was reaching the boiling point, so we decided to have another Knoebels first by having a sit down at the Alamo. In hindsight, perhaps not the best choice, the food was average, and the service was slow but now I can say I did it. It’s definitely not the IB Skyroom, but it’s very affordable and I can see how it’s a nice place to take your family after a long day at the park.
We spent the rest of the evening wandering around the park. We took a great haunted house ride (effects and lighting were working great), a great night ride on the flume (I only wish a few more lights were out), Kathy and I took a spin on the kiddie carousel while Dave snapped photos, and Dave took a ride on Fandango (which he was all smiles afterwards). We got in about 4 more rides on the Phoenix all of which were top notch, one more twister ride, and one more Flyers ride. We ended the night on the Pioneer train and couldn’t have asked more a nicer way to end a day.
We spent the night at the Red Roof in Danville – a marked improvement from our previous stays at the illustrious Glosser (and where we’ll be staying for PPP this year). The only roadblock, literally, getting to the hotel was a sobriety checkpoint which was sobering to say the least – very intense. I’d never been through one of these and I can understand their importance, but wow – I wouldn’t want to be caught f’d up in one of these.
Saturday morning brought another amazing day and after a quick bite and some lousy coffee at Friendly’s we were on the road to Williams Grove. We took the 15 all the way down which is a spectacular drive with tons of scenery: the river, mountains, antique shops and an awful lot of adult emporiums.
We actually found Williams Grove with few issues and were glad to have taken a bathroom break before arriving at the park. We got to the park around 11:30 and parked in the speedway parking lot and meandered across the bridge to get our wristbands. This was my 5th visit to the park, but only my 3rd time actually getting in. This was Dave’s 2nd visit, but his first time getting in, and it would be Kathy’s very first. While there was not a major plan of attack we were to meet Adam Sandy and his friend John a little after 12, and I wanted to make sure that Dave and Kathy got to present for the attack of the steam whistles at noon.
Williams Grove has the promise of being a great park, and with a beautiful day and a light-medium crowd the place actually looks good. It’s a far cry from my previous visit on gloomy day at an almost deserted park, which really made the actual state of the place glaringly obvious. The park has a huge amount of potential and I hope that Mickey Hughes can find a good buyer/operator.
Upon entering the park, the first you things you see are the funky go-karts, bumper cars, decrepit waterslide, and the old ballroom. Even though the crowds appeared light, I wanted to get Dave and Kathy on the Wildcat due to its 2 train, 1 ride-op operations. The Wildcat is situated in a field on the far side of the park – unlike my first visit the grass has been mowed and they placed a flying bobs ride next to it to keep it company. It’s a classic Schwarzkopf and still runs very well, and it’s classic Williams Grove with lots of duct tape on the trains. After getting a quick spin, we got over to the steam fair just in time for the blowing of the whistles at noon – WOW! That’s not a noise you’ll soon forget.
We headed back into the park towards the Cyclone to meet up with Adam & John and very shortly they arrived. They were in great need to eat something so they hit one of the nearest food stands. I don’t know how their food was, but it took forever to order their food and then another eternity to actually get the food. I caught a few moments of the magic show in what I’m guessing is the old housing for a whip, and it was a good opportunity to get a few more pix.
The haunted house and Cyclone were down but we were assured that they would open – Adam, Dave, and John decided to take a spin on the Twister. To the best of my knowledge, this is the last operating Herschell Twister out there (the only one I’m unsure of is a model at a small park in KY). Since Twisters are beyond my spinning capabilities I documented rather than riding. The ride-op working today definitely knew what he was doing and while the boys got a good spin, the ride-op was more interested in twirling two girls and a bunch of goth kids in insane mode – very amusing.
After hitting the car quickly for an application of sunscreen, we decided to explore the Annual Grangers Steam fair that is held in the main parking lot for the park. The fair has to be one of the largest of it’s kind and has been held there annually since the early 1960’s – it just goes on forever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many tractors, steam engines, and farming potpourri all in one place. In certain areas, there are wandering auctioneers with portable pa systems that just stop and hold impromptu auctions. The only thing missing was the tractor pull (which I witnessed during my first visit), but the fair is so large we could’ve easily overlooked it. It’s a very impressive steam fair.
Back in the park, we finally saw the Cyclone running and off we went. The Cyclone is the sole surviving Oscar Bitler coaster (according to RCDB he only made 5). I’m not sure what the original train configuration was – I’ve been told that it used to run 2-4 benchers when it was known as the Zipper. When Mickey Hughes bought the park and brought the coaster back to life (damaged in Hurricane Agnes), he put on 2-3 benchers from the Palisades Cyclone (hence the name change). As has been recounted many times – the WG Cyclone is a very unique ride for many different reasons: it’s layout (out and back, but the back portion running directly underneath the out), it’s condition, and it’s infamous flat section. Much to my surprise they were actually letting people ride the back seat!!!
Dave and I jumped into the backseat only to quickly discover that they had put a very minimal seatbelt that would preclude two full-grown adults from sitting together. So I moved up 1-2 and Dave took his first ride on the Cyclone in the backseat solo. I’m not sure what he was expecting, but he definitely appeared to be in shock. Adam’s friend, John (not an enthusiast) got a front seat ride and was also shocked. I definitely enjoyed my ride!
After we all regained our composure from the Cyclone, we noticed that Dante’s Inferno, the park’s pretzel ride had reopened. It seemed much better than my previous visits: more stunts, the trick-track seemed more effective, and it was a little darker. I know that the park used to have a Traver ‘Laff in the Dark’ dark ride that was either removed or destroyed by Hurricane Agnes – does anyone know if it was in the same building? Upon completing my DAFE requirement we meandered around the park – took in some unique karaoke and unfortunately had to make a pit stop at the Groves one and only bathroom. It’s actually been spruced up from my memory. The urinals seemed new and there was definitely a new coat of paint on the walls, but it is definitely one of the most isolated bathroom facilities out there.
Adam and John took off but it was great to see Adam and meet John (or is Jon?) – Dave, Kathy and I decided that we wanted to get at least one more spin on the Cyclone and Dave wanted another Twister ride. We got back in line for the Cyclone and were on quickly. As you can’t wait for a seat on the Cyclone, Dave and I settled on 3-1 and Kathy got 3-2. This was a much wilder ride for me and Kathy and much less violent ride for Dave – we were all giggles – The ride is so completely wrong that it’s right. I’m convinced that even if the ride were completely retracked it would still be a great ride in it’s own right – it’s a very effective layout. But the way it is now is well…wonderfully unique.
Dave revisited the Twister, and once again the ride op was having his way with two girls, but I was hoping he would really give Dave the ride he desired. Mid-ride – the ride operated suddenly stopped the ride and ran onto the ride platform with a bucket. I made the assumption that one of the two girls he was spinning was going to hurl (she looked like she might)…but no…he was extinguishing a small fire that had started on the wood base boards of the platform - probably from something overheating and than he ran off to get more water or help or something…we never actually saw him again. All the riders very quickly ran from their cars off the platform as a small amount of smoke could be seen. Only at Williams Grove – (for those there on Sunday did the Twister open?)
We decided on that note, it was probably a good time to head back to Knoebels for the rest of the night. We arrived back at Knoebels a little before 7 to an almost full parking lot – Knoebels was hoping! It was one of those rare wristband Saturdays, but we opted for tickets based on the amount of time we had and the crowds. Both coasters were running two trains and we took a back seat ride on the Pheonix, but it didn’t take my breath away as it had the night before – still kicking ass though. I had a much-needed Rib-B-Q and Tri-Tater dinner while Dave and Kathy enjoyed a couple of slices of Cesaris while watching the whacky interactive kids show at the Castle stage. We had a nice round of mini-golf - of course Dave won (but only by one stroke). We watched the Looper hopefully, but never actually saw it open to the public – we did get to see Dick Knoebel take an inaugural spin or rather spins – I think I saw him ride at least three cycles (once with John Fetterman). I really can’t wait to get on it- they did a SPECTACULAR job restoring this ride. Kathy and I settled in on some Fascination and Dave joined us for one round of coverall, but he was more determined to get one more Flyers ride. We finished the evening walking around and taking more pictures – I think Dave got some very impressive night shots – I need to revisit mine, but I wasn’t thrilled. All in all it was an excellent weekend but it was very exhausting.
Thanks for reading!
Jim ‘jimvid’ McDonnell
Williams Grove Pix are here:http://jimvid.smugmug.com/gallery/782759 *** Edited 9/8/2005 2:47:58 AM UTC by jimvid***
I can say that as of Monday evening, Twister was running with no noticable holes or scorch marks on the platform.
Great pics, too, BTW. Good to see so many people at WG. I hope they're able to find a buyer for the place who can bring out more of its potential.
I was at Knoebels on Sunday. It was packed. So much for gas prices keeping people at home. Got to try the Looper (check out the thread under General Buzz). It's a great ride-- wow, from what you're saying Sunday was the first day it was actually open to the public.
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