TR: State Fair of Texas with some bad news

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Thursday, October 5, 2006 11:48 PM
TR: State Fair of Texas

Date: 10/5/2006
Weather: Hot, with temperatures reaching about 90
Crowds: moderate

It's that time of year again. Time for my grandfather and I to drive from Ft. Worth to Dallas and spend the first Thursday in October at the Texas State Fair. Time to ride the Mondial Top Scan, Lumalusion, and all the other great rides at the fair.

At first, it looked like I would not be able to go to the fair this year due to the Louisiana Center for the Blind. However, due to the lateness of my application for training, I could go to the fair for what will be the last time for a while. I will be in Arkansas next year at fair time, and right now I don't have plans to get back to the fair until maybe 2010. I'm really glad I got to go this year, because beginning next year, there are going to be a lot of changes that will eventually result in a permanent midway and no carnival companies bringing in rides.

We were getting ready to head for the fair this morning when Grandpa got a phone call from Mom. Seems Texas Division of Blind Services wanted me to sign some paperwork for them. So, we ran by the house (I had spent the night with Grandpa the night before) to get my Panasonic recorder that I take on rides with me. The stupid thing doesn't work anymore for some reason, so it never got used. Then we headed downtown to meet with my case worker. It didn't take very much out of our time and we were soon on our way again.

Parking is $7 this year. We parked in the same place we always do and even got recognized by the attendants. By the time we got to the midway, the rides had opened. That didn't stop us from taking the tradditional walking tour we take where Grandpa tells me the rides and where they're at so we can plan our day.

This is my favorite fair to go to. I have never been denied a ride on anything, and the carnies are very nice and treat me like a normal person instead of someone who cannot ride because of disability. At the smaller carnivals, there is always at least one instance where I'm almost denied a ride. I think that it is the nature of this midway that makes the carnies to treat me as a normal person. They know that if they discriminate or deny rides and somebody files a complaint, there company may not get invited back with its pieces. The smaller carnivals are one company usually, and the carnies at those tend to be a little bit more skeptical about letting me ride there rides. I really like this fair because I can blend in and not stand out. It should also be noted that today seemed to be Wheelchair Day as tons of people we saw were in wheelchairs. They weren't riding, but they were everywhere on the grounds. OK, soapbox over, now onto the rides!

Unfortunately, the worst thing that has ever happened to me at any carnival happened when we headed for our first ride. The Mondial Top Scan, Space Roller, is the king of spin rides in my book and to me, it should always be ridden first and last. It is the one that typically gets me going and buzzed for a day of spinning and flipping at the fair. We make a beeline for it so Grandpa could help me onto the ride and guess what happened? Space Roller is down due to maintenance and it never opened today. Oh no. This was extremely depressing news to me. What could I substitute for my beloved Top Scan? Sure, they had a Zamperla Power Surge on the other side of the midway, but I found the Zamperla Power Surge to be very weak and lacking forces when I rode it in February of this year at a local carnival. It didn't flip but maybe once, and it just seemed slow, so I avoided it this time.

Well, I was really upset now and this would result in my day being cut short and me just not having the adrenaline I do after getting off of Space Roller. I didn't ride that much and I wish I had ridden more now, but it was just so bad to have my fav ride down and me not being able to ride it this year. I really love that thing.

So, I sadly headed for the Fighter, a Mondial Swinger owned by Flight to Mars that is a consistent performer year after year. This ride was insane. It was the most intense ride I have ever had on it, and we were really swinging at some points. Very very good. It may not be Space Roller, but it was all right to start off the day.

Next, I decided to get the two coasters out of the way now. I started with the Zillerator, a Pinfari ZL64 owned by West Coast Amusements. From what I've heard, this ride used to operate at Ry Playland. There were some pretty big changes to the ride this year. The cars now have a group buzz bar instead of the individual ratcheting lapbars that I remember last year. Good thing, as it was cramped even for a very skinny person like myself last year with those bars. It is running relatively smoothly, with one trim that I could definitely tell was on when the car engaged a chain on flat track right before the helix. Dang trim brakes! The drops have no airtime, but this ride has never had good air on its drops to begin with. There was also a nasty jolt at the top of the final dip that I noticed on my second ride when my knees smashed into the padding. This ride got padding too. Thank you!

This Zyklon was running individual 4-person cars. The ops were doing a fantastic job with dispatch. One other thing that this ride got this year that I don't remember it having is a conveyor belt so that cars could move through the station more quickly. Of course, they stopped it for me so I could board safely, but it was a very good move IMO. I rode in the back seat of one of the small cars and had a lot more legroom thanks to the single-position lapbar. Well done, WCA. Now, just take the bars out and put seatbelts in.

The ops also gave me a free second go-round without me having to get out of the car. This came about partially because I didn't realize the car was on a conveyor belt and so I sat there unaware that I was supposed to get up and out of the car. The ops told me I had to get out but I was so far along the belt that they asked me if I wanted to ride again and I said yes. So I got sent out again. The second time, I knew it was coming and the ops helped me out of the car. Very efficient and well-managed operation.

Then it was off to one of my favorites, the Crazy Mouse! This one also had a great crew. This was Steve Vandervaust's mouse and it has been coming here since 2002. It never ceases to be fun. I've ridden Talley's and Crabtree's mice and if there's one thing I learned about these things, it is that they are always wild.

I boarded the car and pulled down the lapbar. I was sitting on the outside with no other riders in the car. I decided to do the enthusiast thing and ask the op if he could pull the pin early for me so I could spin in the first half. He said he wouldn't, but that I would get a good ride. Now, I weigh in at only about 120 lbs (a little below the average 18-year-old) and I am extremely slender. Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how much spinning I get off of these little coasters. When the pin was released in the second half, I started spinning like a top through the rest of the ride, taking the final dip backwards. I came into the station still spinning.

Then the op gave me another free ride simply for enjoying the ride the first time. He escorted me to another car and I got in, this time experimenting by sitting on the inside. My spinning was not as good, but it was still excellent. I took the final dip still spinning, and somehow it resulted in a massive pop of ejector air on the double-up. They need softer padding on those lapbars. Ouch!

Then it was off to the Thrillway (the extreme attractions section of the midway) to ride something that was new this year that I had wanted to ride since it came out, the S&S Screamin Swing. It was the cheapest attraction on the Thrillway this year. This was the 8-passenger version that a lot of smaller parks seem to be getting. Grandpa led me to the swing set and paid the coupons required. Then the British operator led me to the swing. I thought your feet dangled on this thing. Well, that is apparently not the case as I stepped onto a platform with the seat behind me. A letdown I had right away was that the seats had no padding. The lapbar or whatever the heck that thing is was well-padded. I slid into the seat and man is this seat deep. It was literally a rump scoop. The first thing I did when I got in is look for the safety bar. I found it in the side of the seat. Weird. I pulled it down or should I say folded it over my lap and that thing felt so dang loose. How the heck do you stay in this thing? Then the op came by and pushed down on the restraint, tightening my hips around the thing. I thought this was a lapbar! It was a little tight but I didn't mind.

After he loaded two other passengers onto the other arm, he started the ride. First off, this ride is extremely quiet. I couldn't even hear compressed air going through the cylinders. Oh. My. Gosh. What a fantastic ride! That thing just took off. It caught me completely off-guard. I thought it was going to slowly accelerate. How wrong I was! We practically exploded into the air and started swinging. Of course, I kicked my arms and legs straight out and had a ball. This ride had hints of airtime in it and it was going very high, very fast. I hate pirate ships because they make me nauseous with there rocking motions. This one didn't. Like the S&S tower rides, this ride is not about getting you disoriented or nauseated. It is about fun and exhilaration, and to that end, S&S did a fantastic job. It felt exactly like a really high playground swing that could really move. There was also no pause at the top of each swing. We got pushed the other way just as quickly as we had gone that way. The restraints gave me an unbelievable feeling of freedom, yet they were perfectly secure. This is now my second-favorite flat ride, taking Starship 2000's place at that rank.

At the end of the ride, I didn't want it to end. I could have ridden it all day. I got 4 swings at full height btw. The op didn't come around to pull my bar up. I was about to pull it up when the ride started again. Oh man, another free ride for me! Kick those arms and legs back out!

I knew I was coming back to that crazy contraption later. Next, it was off to the other new ride this year, the Dartron Zero Gravity. Those of you who read my tr a month ago will know that I rode a Hrubetz Super Roundup that was called Zero Gravity and I wound up telling people it was a Dartron. This was a true Dartron Zero Gravity. I knew it when I was strapped in instead of chained in. The padding was very uncomfortable, though. The grab bars that were so prominent on the Roundup were not as evident. They were there, but they were farther back in the sides of the bay.

This one just launched itself up. I mean, I could barely tell if we had spun at ground level before the boom was rising and I was leaning way, way back. This one also had forces, unlike the Roundup. I think this ties with the Gravitron as the second-most intense ride I have ever ridden. I was pinned to the wall, but I held on anyway. I was completely laying down whereas on the Roundup, I was just leaning back when the boom rose. We had a nice long spinny ride at the top, and you know I like these a lot better than the old Roundups. Now, don't get me wrong, the Roundup is still a great ride even though it squeals to death and doesn't rise very high. I just think this one has more speed and G-forces, and I actually felt pinned to the wall. And this thing doesn't have that annoying tire squealing, which is a plus. Overall, it was an excellent ride and I hope more carnivals get these things as the gp will love it as well as enthusiasts.

At this time, I felt it was time to eat. I ordered a grilled chicken breast and fries, and Grandpa ordered a cheeseburger. We sat under a canopy for a while. The grilled chicken was slightly burnt, and the fries were adequate. By this time, it was beginning to get hot.

After lunch, it was time for me to practice my other hobby when I go to carnivals, funhouse walking. I walked through my favorite funhouse, the King's Circus. This thing is huge, comprising four floors of fun things including a mirror maze and two wringers (padded spinning pylons that you squeeze between). I have to be guided through this one, as it is absolutely massive. The same guy that escorted me through last year did it again, and even Grandpa got in on the fun. Last year, they made me walk through the rolling barrel with it turned on and the rolling barrel attendant and my escort helping me. This year, I made it clear that I didn't want to go through it. Here's my problem with those things. You can't use a cane in the rolling barrels. If you did, it would make you lose your balance and coordination and you would get disoriented because you're taught to use your cane by rolling or tapping back and forth to each side. In rolling barrels, the floor is rolling in one direction, and if you put your cane in the other direction, you would lose your step. When I walked through Infernal Combustion in 2004 and tried to use my cane in the barrel, I fell flat on my face and humiliated myself in front of everybody. Since then, I have asked ops to turn those things off.

King's Circus had its share of inoperable stunts, as usual. The conveyor belt on the first-floor balcony wasn't operating this year, and most of the tricks on the second level were not working. Now, I don't think they shut the power off for me as there were operational stunts, but I think I just caught this funhouse on a bad day. I'd love to walk through it with every single stunt working. I also noticed two turntables in the house that I didn't know existed last year. There was also a huge air jet at the exit, scaring the crap out of me. For your information, some of you have asked how I do on the split-stairs stunt. I did very well today, making it up there before the other two could get up the ladder. I do it by jumping stairs and doing two at a time while holding onto the handrails and leaping onto the stairs as they pass. The Cloud Tunnel stunt (a rolling barrel with balloons and streamers) was operating, complete with a moving bridge that was only one person wide that moved from side to side. This was a great funhouse, as usual, and the only one I walked through this year, which is a first for me as I usually do at least two a year.

Then, it was off to Lumalusion, the fair's Bill Tracy dark ride. I may as well explain why I like this one, even though I can't see what's happening. Back in 1996, before I was an enthusiast (I didn't consider myself an enthusiast until 2004), Mom and Dad took me to the state fair. My older sister and mother got me to ride the Huss Pirate Boat. That ride is still at the fair today, with the same obnoxious operator blasting his air horn that can be heard all the way across the freaking midway. I did not like the ride and I thought it was too long. When we started going high and I felt my first airtime, I freaked out and started crying. I was also nauseous. That is the ride that caused me to hate pirate ships. I still do hate pirate ships, though I love the S&S swing because it feels more like a swing and it is not nauseating. I also hate the KMG Afterburner and the Frisbee rides as I got sick on an Afterburner at this fair two years ago after eating chicken and fries. I came close to throwing up. So anyway, they got a refund from the operator and tried to find a ride that they thought I would like. That ride was Lumalusion. I rode it at least 4-5 times that day. Now, I ride it at least once each visit as it holds a place in my heart. The ride has changed over the years. It is now completely enclosed, moves slower, and the cars went from roller coaster-style cars back to the HushPuppy design. For those of you that are wishing they would play Pink Floyd inside the ride, they now do. Or at least, they play some kind of music that sounds like rock music throughout the ride. I'm not that much of a rock fan, but I think it was Pink Floyd. This ride was also a great way to get out of the heat. The AC wasn't working in all the rooms, but it worked in most of them.

After that, I headed to have a go on Sparklett's Splash, the fair's Arro log flume. I really enjoy this ride. It is a very peaceful and relaxing ride. This is also the only log flume where I am allowed to ride in a log by myself. I hopped aboard and noticed right off when we got into the trough that there were misting fans everywhere. Due to how hot the day was, the sprinklers and misters along this ride's trough were turned on. You were sprayed almost all the way through the ride. Then we went down the drop and I didn't get that wet. Well, it was a nice ride anyway.

Next, we took a break. Grandpa used the bathroom while I made a phone call and recorded a podcast entry. Then I had a plan. I had decided that this year was going to be the year where I would ride the Himalaya-style rides for the first time. There were three on this midway. They were a Chance Thunderbolt, a Mac Swing Bob, and a Mac Musik-Express. It was time to put that plan in motion. I headed to the Big Kahuna, the Chance Thunderbolt.

I climbed into the cars and man, do these things rock or what? That thing was rocking constantly it seemed. The headrest was nothing but a bunch of metal bars, so I didn't even put my head on it. I found that I stretched my legs out and leaned back as I sat down in the car. Then the ride started. It didn't go that fast, but it was made up for by how fast and how randomly the cars rocked and swung. We got 1 minute forward, one minute backward. I thought it was very enjoyable. It wasn't too fast or too slow. It was just the right speed. Are the Musik Express rides like this, or are they faster?

Then I headed next door to the Larson Fireball. Why did I have to ride this? What sort of stupid idea got into my head that made me ride this junk heap? The motion was great, but those Fireball trains have obviously been designed by a woman as, for me at least, the lower part of my restraint dug into my crotch because of tightness. I'll stick to the Super Loops and Ring of Fire from now on, thank you very much.

Next, Grandpa and I rode the Herschell Skywheel. It was a nice, nestalgic ride, but I think it moved way too fast. I actually started feeling nauseous. The carnie told me after I got off that Herschell is back in business, with a small shop somewhere.

I couldn't do the other two Himalaya-style rides. There was no way after the nausea I got on the Skywheel. By now, I was beginning to feel tired. Space Roller was down, I felt that I was not getting as much as I wanted, and to top it off, I had just gotten a bout of nausea from the Skywheel. That car rocked way too much.

Next, it was off to the Tilt-a-Whirl. This one was one of the new G5 Tilts. Everything I said back in March when I thought that Tilt was a G5 are now wrong. The G5 in not all that different from the tilt, except boarding the cars has been vastly improved. Now, you just step into it as if you were boarding a coaster car. The G5 seemed to only spin in one direction when I rode it, and it squealed! I have never heard a Tilt squeal before until now. It was an ok ride, but I prefer the older Tilts.

Finally, I went back to ride the Screamin Swing some more. This time, I paid for one ride, got it, then rode two more times with someone who was riding this for the first time. The third ride wasn't supposed to happen; the op pulled the stop-the-ride-then-start-it gag on us. This time, the op loosened the restraint at my request and it made a big difference. Mammoth airtime! Get up out of this seat and stay out! That is some of the best airtime I have ever experienced on anything. After my rides on that awesome swing, we headed out and Grandpa took me home.

Overall, I thought this year's fair was all right. Even though Space Roller was down, I still enjoyed myself, but I got exhausted real fast and I didn't reach my goal of riding all three of those rides. I only rode the Thunderbolt. Well, maybe next time. And for those of you who are going to the fair on a Tuesday during its run, each ride is only going to be 5 coupons every Tuesday. Yes, even the Slingshot! The fair runs through October 22.

And for those of you who are interested, here are the trips I want to try to go on next year. They are:
1. HoliWood Nights
2. Rumblefest
3. Valleyfair! due to the American Council of the Blind convention being in Minneapolis
4. A trip to the Puyallup Fair
and finally
5. Phoenix Phall Phunphest with Camp RRC.

I may not get to go on all of them, as I'm going to be living off of SSA money and I may not have enough for all of them. I really want to go to HW and PPP so those are the two I'm going to try the hardest to get to.

Thanks for reading.

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Friday, October 6, 2006 9:01 AM
If you can only get to even one event, try to make it Holiwood Nights. Holiday Wolrd is just too good to pass up.
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Friday, October 6, 2006 10:46 AM
Excellent trip report!
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Friday, October 6, 2006 11:00 AM
If the fair puts in a permanent midway, will they add a wooden coaster? They used to have one named the Comet.

When I was at the fair in 2000, there were two permanent rides there, the 4 abreast Dentzel carousel (same model as KWs but with different horses) and the Texas Star Ferris Wheel.

The Carousel and Comet were part of a permanent park along with other rides for many years. Additional rides were brought in during the fair. *** Edited 10/6/2006 3:01:03 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

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Friday, October 6, 2006 2:24 PM
You're not alone in the "Avoiding Rolling Barrels Club." I firmly believe the park is there to entertain me-- I'm not there to entertain the park. :)
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Saturday, October 7, 2006 4:20 AM
Ok, for some reason my reply didn't get posted. So, let's try again. Thanks for the comments. Last I heard, it was going to be a roller coaster. There was no word on whether it would be a wooden one or a looping one. The Carousel is still there as are some other permanent attractions.
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006 8:49 PM
Nice report as usuall. How much is a coupon? In Ohio, most of our major thrill rides are 3 or 4 tickets, with each ticket costing 1 dollar. But I usually get an all day pass, which are $15 if you get it before the fair, and $18 during the fair. If you include parking and fair admission, it's just as expensive to go to Geauga Lake, and very close to the cost of Kings Island.
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006 11:52 PM
John, I think the air horn is on the Love Bug which is next to the Pirate. Coaterb, coupons are $.50 each. There is no pay one price. As John mentioned rides are cheaper on Tuesdays.
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Thursday, October 12, 2006 4:50 PM
They are 50 cents each. The air horn on Love Bugs wasn't on if it was there.
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Thursday, October 12, 2006 6:29 PM
Nice TR. I took my first trip to the fair this year and wasn't all that impressed, especially after all the hype. Not saying I didn't have a good time, but it was really expensive to ride most things.

The crazy mouse was really absolutely insane.

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