TR: State Fair Of Texas

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Friday, October 17, 2008 5:23 PM

TR: State Fair of Texas

Date: 10-18-08

Weather: Overcast and in the fifties
Crowds: Fair was packed, midway wasn't too bad.

Well, I was able to go to the state fair this year, as I was home. As usual, my grandfather would be taking me. I was really looking forward to trying out some new rides, including something that, imo, beats those stupid Skyscraper rides to the ground and makes a fool out of them. I'll get to that one later.

We headed out around 10:30 and made good time getting to the fair, getting there around noon. Unpaved parking is $7, paved parking is $15. We actually got recognized by the attendant, and parked in the usual place where we've been parking for years. Grandpa got in free, as it was Seniors' Day. I only got in for $6 because of a handicapped discount. There were a lot of school buses there that day. Of course, I know what you are thinking, and I thought the same thing. Packed midway, screaming kids everywhere. No, that was not the case. Lots of them went into the livestock area and educational exhibits and we hardly had any on the midway. In fact, hardly anyone was riding anything.

Ride coupons this year were marked down to 50 cents! Finally! But there was a catch. Rides were more expensive. The Mondial Top Scan was $5 a ride, as were most of the big ones. The new-for-2007 Texas Skyway aerial tram was 8 coupons one-way, and 12 coupons round-trip. I'll get to that one in a minute.

First, we took our usual walking tour. I had my audio recording equipment with me, so I got ready to start it up. It's my version of photography, as I am totally blind, but I also have a podcast. I got a new recorder earlier this year that can record in surround-sound, so this would be the first time I'd be taking a recorder onto a carnival ride since my other one broke. I was kind of nervous. I got home and found out that not everything was picked up. It seems that though the lights were on, it wasn't recording. That's a real shame, as I had tried to record a completely silent Skyride. I brought the windscreen that came with it, but I decided to use my windbreaker's pocket as a windscreen instead. Didn't turn out the way I expected, but it seems fine. And yes, I kept the pocket zipped up as much as it would go when on most rides, but if you'd seen me on the Crazy Mouse or Pinfari Zyklon, I was holding it and not holding on to the lapbar. Grandpa also made me a lanyard to wear around my neck. Well, enough of that. Sorry.

So after our walking tour, I headed to see if the king of the midway had woken up yet. You know what I'm talking about. Space Roller! Well, they said it would be 30 minutes to an hour. Fine by me. As long as I don't have to hear it is down for the day, like I did two years ago, I'll be fine. So, I headed next door to the Mondial Swinger, called the Fighter. This ride has been described by people already, so I'm not going too. I will say, though, that today's ride was the most intense ride I've ever had on this thing. I think he had the hydraulic mechanism swinging us out as far as it would go. It sure felt like it. It was great.

Next, I decided to give Grandpa the opportunity to take some aerial shots of the midway. How did I do that? The Ferris Wheel? No, the Ferris wheell they have there is boring. We used the Texas Skyway, the new-for-2007 Doppelmayer Skyride. They designed this thing so that it literally goes straight down the middle of the midway for its entire length. It stretches from one end to the other. People are seated in 34 completely enclosed 8-passenger gondolas. Some have benches that face each other, and some have benches back-to-back. There's also space for wheelchairs or strollers, in fact, the boarding system actually allows for no stepping up into the gondola. You board directly from the platform, as when they're in the station, the gondolas are flush with the platform. They also have a moving walkway for some reason before you actually step inside the gondola. Like I said earlier, you can either use it as a people-mover or take it round-trip. I think it is ridiculous that they charge for it, though. Charging for a round-trip ticket would be better, but if you want to go from one end of the carnival to the other, using it as a walking alternative, you shouldn't have to pay 8 freaking coupons to do it. That's why I decided not to go with my original plan of using it as a transportation device. I hear Minnesota doesn't charge people to use theres, why should we?

So we headed up to the station via a series of ramps and gave our tickets to the attendant. If you go round-trip, they give you a card that you give to the attendant at the other station. A few minutes later, we boarded our car. I hadn't ridden one of these things in years, and the ones I did were Vonroll units. I also have ridden a Hopkins SkyGlider in Amarillo. The Doppelmayer units are a lot smoother than the Vonroll ones, and they're a lot quieter. There's also not as much swinging. This one also had enclosed cars with doors. However, there was a great breeze and a lot of vents to let air in. It rode a lot like a gondola ride you'd see at a ski resort. You can also hear the rides as you fly over them. And I mean that. You go directly over each ride and game. From anywhere on the midway, you can look up and see the gondolas above you. It goes straight down the middle. A round-trip is about 7.5 minutes. I found it to be quite nice even though I couldn't see the scenery. Being able to still hear the midway was neat to me. Well, except for the idiot who ran the Huss Pirat, blasting that stupid air horn that can probably be heard for miles around. I still hate pirate ship rides, and the KMG Afterburner is one I stay away from. The only one I'll ride is the S&S Screaming Swing.

Well, after our trip on the skyway, I decided to get the two coasters out of the way. First was the Reverchon Crazy Mouse. Same old ride with good, intense spinning. Then it was off to Zillerator, the Pinfari Zyklon. It still has the single-position buzz bars and individual cars. It was its usual self, except there was hardly any jolting. They must have worked on it.

Next, it was off to the Lumalusion dark ride. The ac was working this year, but it wasn't needed. They also had some more sound effects in it. Not bad. After that, I headed to have a go on the Larson Fireball. The restraints are still too tight on this thing, although this year it wasn't as irritating. Getting held at the top was cool.

Next, I decided to walk through a funhouse I hadn't done in a while, the Bubble House. This plays Bavarian music throughout, as well as some polkas. It's three levels of stunts, including a section of floor at the end that, when jumped on, makes a knocking noise. It's a pretty cool one. No rolling barrel in this one, thank God. Well, there was one, but it was the one where you just walk across the bridge and it moves around you.

Then we went back over to the Space Roller and found that it was now open. So, it was time to ride the king of the midway. I had to sit on the inside this time, next to a guy who'd never ridden a Top Scan. He enjoyed it. The op running it this year was the best one I've seen. He was very energetic and loved operating the thing. Space Roller was its usual self, providing a wild ride like no other, although a ride I'd ride later would come close.

Next, it was off to the Tilt-a-Whirl. This was a G5 model. Boarding this one is a lot easier than boarding the older ones, and the cars are made of fiberglass. The ride is still the same, although the op on this one tended to run it in only one direction. He ran it for a really long cycle, though. I'd say at least 5-7 minutes. Not a bad ride.

Then it was off to the Kidway to ride the Wisdom Tornado. Yes, here the Tornado is treated as a kiddie/family ride, but as enthusiasts know, it can be a thrill ride. I'm unfortunately not that strong, and I had to quit after about 1.5 minutes. I had it spinning at a nice clip, but I'd love to ride with some fellow enthusiasts. We'd have that thing spinning like crazy. The op on this one was also really nice. She originally was going to put a boy in there with me, then I said "Look, I'm going to go fast." Needless to say, the boy was escorted to another tub immediately.

After the Tornado, I had to rest for a while. My arms were killing me at that point from all that spinning. After that, I headed to the Thrillway, which is the extreme rides section of the midway. I was going to ride two big-ticket rides, including the Skyscraper's evil twin brother.

First, though, I rode the FunTime Springshot that is always here every year. They now have a "no single riders" rule on it, and the ride now has a sound system. I had to ask for a countdown to launch. You are also now allowed to leave your feet hanging down instead of propping them on the footbar. I admit it, it's better that way. This ride always delivers. I love it. The flipping was pretty dang good with two riders in the cage.

Next, it was off to the Skyscraper's evil brother. It looks like a Skyscraper or Booster, except that there is one 8-seat gondola on one end only. There is also a fan above the riders that produces an erie sound effect. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the Mondial Capriolo! This is the newest thing from Mondial, and it made its U.S. debut at the fair last year. I was really pumped up about riding it. I had read a review on Coaster Kingdom, a European site, about this thing. I boarded the ride and got my bar pulled down. Firstly, the Capriolo doesn't start out like the Skyscraper does. The Capriolo starts off with the gondola stationary. The arm swings back and forth, sort of like a Kamikaze, but faster. It gets higher and higher, and eventually, you get whipped around as the gondola's brakes release, and the arm does full revolutions. The Capriolo is not pulling constant G-forces like the Booster or Skyscraper. Instead, it lulls you into thinking it isn't bad, then just when you think you can relax, you all of a sudden get an unbelievable amount of force as you are suddenly whipped around. I'd say this ride goes at least 80 mph. If you are stuck upside-down while heading toward the ground, you're in for a simulation of what a migraine feels like. It is seriously one of the most intense rides you will ever ride. We did a couple of revolutions forward, then did one backwards. We were stuck upside-down in said position when we dropped toward the ground, and my head was pounding me for a while afterword. It actually hurt. The flipping ad rocking motions of the gondola are fabulous. This ride proves yet again that Mondial is the best ride manufacturer around. I'd advise parks to get rid of those trashy Skyscrapers and get Capriolos. They're a lot better. Mind you, the only other version I've ridden is a Fabbri Booster, which is a piece of trash. I like how this one starts, and I love the suspense of never knowing when you'll flip again. One minute you're sitting there wondering if that's it, the next you're being tossed around like a rag doll. The fan above the riders also adds to the experience by producing a doppler sound effect every time the ride moves. If this thing is at a fair near you, and you think you can handle the forces, get out there and ride it. you'll be glad you did.

My head was still pounding, but I decided to next ride the Dartron Zero Gravity. It was running a short cycle, but it was still a good ride. And the G's were on my chest, not my head, allowing me to relax a little more. I didn't hold on very much either, as I was pinned down pretty hard.

After the Zero Gravity, it was off to the King's Circus funhouse for another walk through my favorite funhouse. A buckling bridge was added this year, and a lot more stunts were operating. I started to go through this one by myself, then got disoriented, so they sent Grandpa in after me. This funhouse is alway cool.

Then it was off to one of the rides I didn't get to ride when it debuted last year. Windsurf is a Zamperla Backflash. This ride doesn't focus on rotating arms or anything like that. It's all about acrobatics. I'd say this is Zamperla's version of the Top Spin, but I haven't ridden a Top Spin in a few years. There's one long row of seats instead of multiple rows. So I board the ride, we get raised up, and then the acrobatics started. The op on this one was pretty cool. Every time he yelled "Windsurf dude!", we got at least four rolls in rapid succession. He also would turn us upside-down on the ground, then raise us up to the ride's maximum height. "Oops, I pushed the wrong button! Sorry." Wham! More crazy flips at full speed and height. There were also dramatic dives and swoops back up out of them before flipping a few more times. This ride is not for everyone. I can see people getting queasy very easily. The ride culminated when the op turned us upside-down, raised us up to full height, then in true Top Spin fashion, sprayed water at us. I didn't get it on my hearing aids, thank God. I was at the right height to get it all over my hands if I stuck them under the fountain, which I did. If little kids had been on the ride, they would have gotten it full in the face. The ride was totally awesome. I'd gladly do it again. Hope it is there next year.

Then I decided to try another new one. This was the Mondial Heartbreaker, a supposedly more family-oriented version of the Top Scan. It broke my heart. Why? Because it was the Vekoma SLC of spin rides. I've never ridden an SLC, but from what I've heard about them, I can compare this one to one of them. It was a headbanging experience, and the ride was incredibly bumpy. This was the first bad experience I've had with Mondial, which I never thought I'd have. Don't ride this one if you can help it. I decided not to ride the Fabbri Hard Rock after this ride.

After Heartbreaker, I decided to ride the log flume ride that is here. It was its usual self, except with a few more sprayers. The drop was again not soaking anybody. I ride this one even though it's cold because this is the only ride of this kind where one can actually get a log to himself during slow days. It's awesome.

Next I went to ride Lumalusion one more time. After that, I decided to ride the skyway by myself. I was actually allowed too, even though they were probably thinking "What's a blind guy doing riding this thing alone?" I wanted to get a recording of the midway from the air, which unfortunately did not happen. But it was still cool to have a gondola to myself. Grandpa was looking for a bathroom while I was doing that. I took a round-trip on it, so I got to relax for a while. I had ridden the Zierrer Wave Swinger before this ride because Six Flags is removing the Chance Yo-yo. The Zierrer version is pretty good. NOt as much rocking, but still a good ride.

After that, I rode Space Roller one more time and actually got recognized by the crew. He told everyone over the mike that I was back for more. I sat in the enthusiasts' seat this time and got one of the wildest rides I've ever gotten on this thing. We headed out after that.

Overall, there was a lot I wish I could have done in the time I had. There was this year's new ride, the Wisdom Viper, which from the description I got, sounds like a new version of the Storm. There was also a Chance Thunderbolt I like to ride, the Starship 2000, the Flying Carpet funhouse, the Wisdom Storm, the Techno Power, and a lot more. But I didn't have that much money, and the ride prices have gone up. So I had to pick and choose. However, the ones I rode were pretty good, and the ops were good as always. Now just give us a pay-one-price option and I'll be happy. I'd love to get down to the Florida State Fair to check out there midway as I hear they have POP on certain days. Thanks for reading.

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Friday, October 17, 2008 6:14 PM

Awesome trip report John, thanks. I keep wanting to get to State Fair of Texas, actually made it to the farigrounds as a side trip on the Memorial Day weekend SchlitterCon trip (sadly, I was told Big Tex only comes out during the fair - did get to meet Hank Hill though, LOL). The two big State Fairs I have made it to were Puyallup and Ohio's a couple years ago. Almost made it to MN Fair this year, but plans got rearranged. The variety of rides that are hard-to-find in fixed-location parks are certainly a draw. PCW does really well at bringing in some of the rare rides, but the big fairs are special in their own way.

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Friday, October 17, 2008 8:35 PM

Thanks. I agree about the fair thing. I hear PCW and Lagun have Mondial Splashovers. I want to check those things out.

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