When Tim put this trip together months ago, our plan was to head due West after SFOG and stop at Visionland on the way home. Once we learned that Miracle Strip was going to close, we decided to alter our plans and head to Florida.
It was a long drive from just outside of Atlanta down to Panama City, and most of it was not interstate. We stopped for lunch in a little podunk town in Alabama where it was obvious to the people in the restaurant that we weren’t from these parts. We had planned to spend just a few hours at the park, and then try to make it to Jackson, Mississippi where we had a hotel reservation. By the time we got to the town of Dothan, we realized we would not have enough time to visit the park then make it all the way to Jackson at a reasonable hour, so we called the hotel and cancelled our reservation. This turned out to be a smart move as we ran into a lot of traffic as we got close to Panama City, with traffic barely crawling as we got near the beach.
We finally arrived at the park at about 3:00 p.m. and as soon as we arrived we were surprised to run into Mark Cole, ACE’s Vice President, whom we had seen, of course, during the convention earlier in our trip. He was waiting to meet up with Derek Shaw and couple of his friends. We knew we might run into Derek, but were not expecting to see Mark. We headed over to the Starliner and were surprised to find an empty station. The coaster came in with a few patrons riding and being first in line we hopped in the front seat. The coaster is a little rough in a spot or two, but has some surprise negative G’s in the tunnel. The turnaround was unusual in that it started high but sloped nearly to ground level during the turn, something I had not seen on a John Allen coaster before. The coaster finishes with a long covered brake run, which houses traditional skid brakes bringing the train to a smooth stop. The station is curved and has a separate load and unloading area. The brakes are still operated by hand via big old brake levers. They have two trains, but only operate one at a time. It’s a PTC three-bench three-car train with nice padding, no headrests, and of course a single lap bar. It did have seat dividers though. This was a fun little ride, not real big on thrills, and not as much airtime as I had hoped for, but fun nonetheless. We rode several times during our visit.
Shortly after riding the first time around, we met up with Derek and posse. I don’t remember the exact order we did everything but I’ll comment on the rides we rode. The park is well maintained and clean. It has lots of palm trees and flowers, and everywhere you look you’ll find these covered, swinging seats for people to relax in. It doesn’t look like a park that is closing down at the end of the season.
The O2 tower is a combo tower from S&S and gives a beautiful view of the beach and of the coaster. They asked me to take my glasses off, but they let Tim ride with his camera. It gave a good pop and a good drop.
The Dungeon is an indoor Tilt-A-Whirl with special lighting, music and air-conditioning. I’m not real big on spinning rides but having never tilted and whirled indoors, I thought I would give it a try. Besides everyone else was riding, so there was that bit of peer pressure too. The cycle was long and the lighting was kind of neat, but fortunately we didn’t get any really crazy spins, not that we were trying. Derek was able to spin a lot just by working the cars a little. It was a fun ride, and I’m glad I gave it a try.
They have a couple of other indoor rides with the same types of effects. The Abominable Snowman is an indoor Scrambler, and Dante’s Inferno we thought was a Rotor. We didn’t ride either one. We’ve done indoor Scramblers before but I’m not sure why we didn’t do the Rotor as they are getting a little rare and who knows what it would have been like indoors. But as enthusiasts who are getting older, we must limit our spinning. I've read other reports that indicate this might be an indoor Trabant. I'm not really sure now. Tim seems to think it was a Rotor.
In the back of the park is an Arrow log flume with a fiberglass trough, but it looks like a later Arrow, as the flume is supported by steel poles rather than wood supports. It was really slow from the station to the first lift but afterwards it had a pleasant course through the trees. A second lift leads to a splashdown with just the right amount of splash--not too drenching.
Haunted Castle is a nice dark ride with a couple of different levels. It had a spinning drum and the usual special effects. I was surprised at how many times we were going uphill or downhill to reach the various levels. It’s a good dark ride; I hope it gets saved and moved to another park.
The structure of Route 63 looks like it was built with the park. It reminded me a lot of the turnpike cars at Cedar Point or the ones Kings Island used to have. The cars however are newer Morgan electric cars equipped with radios, so I’m guessing this must have been a recent retrofit. This was a long course that goes through the same tree filled area that the flume occupies.
I don’t think we rode anything else. We did buy a T-shirt the park had printed up for the last season of operation, and I bought a drink with a souvenir cup. Those were about the only souvenirs the park had.
There were a number of kiddie rides installed under large picnic pavilions. I thought this was a good idea to help keep the kids and waiting parents out of the hot Florida sun.
One of our most astonishing moments took place aboard the coaster. During one of our rides, a family of five was just in front of us in line (a mother and father, two young kids, and an infant in a stroller). The operators said he had room for two more. The mother looked oddly at the father and proceeded to lift the infant from the stroller and load her into the coaster!! We were shocked and were waiting for the attendants to inform the mother that the child is too small. Nope. The lap bar was checked and off they went. All of us were stunned. We asked the father how old the girl was. He informed us eighteen months! (And we wonder why some children grow up to be on the news.) Thankfully the child returned okay, but has probably developed some suppressed instinctive fear of roller coasters that will bewilder her as a teen.
As it got later in the day the park started getting busier. I understand this is more of a nighttime place, and I wish we could have stayed until it got dark, but we needed to get another state or two closer to home. We had a good time at the park, and its sad leaving knowing that this place won’t be here next year.
We drove as far as just East of Biloxi and had a lot of trouble finding a hotel for the night, as it was a Saturday night of a holiday weekend. Some hotels had hand-written signs in the windows indicating no rooms, so we didn’t even bother to stop. I think we visited about seven or eight hotels at two different highway exits before finally finding a room for twice the amount as the one we had reserved in Jackson.
Epilogue – SFOS
Because we opted to stay South and head into Biloxi, our route home would take us near New Orleans and very close to Six Flags Over Swampland (SFOS) also known as Six Flags New Orleans. We had a tough decision to make. We had visited Jazzland twice before, and we didn’t really care too much for the park, although we do like MegaZeph. The only coaster new to us would be a mirror image Batman. We were a little curious to see what Six Flags had done to the place. It was a difficult call, we had almost 10 hours of driving ahead of us and figured we would need at least two to three hours in the park to hop on Batman and get a few rides on MegaZeph. It was Sunday July 4th, the middle of a holiday weekend, and it was already pretty hot in the morning. We decided with the long drive ahead it was best to skip the park.
As we drove further and further away from the exit I kind of regretted not stopping and so did Tim. I don’t know when we will ever be this close again. Neither of us likes New Orleans, so we don’t have any reason to get back to this area.
We made it home safe and sound early in the evening on July 4. That concluded our 20-day road trip through 20 states and 12 parks. It was great meeting up with various friends along with the way. I hope you enjoyed the trip reports. Thanks for reading.
*** Edited 7/23/2004 5:03:31 PM UTC by Jeffrey Seifert***
When we were there in June, I did not ride Dungeon thinking it was an indor Rotor. Had I known it was a Tilt-a-whirl...
You thought (incorrectly) that Dante's Inferno was an indoor Rotor.
I thought (incorrectly) that Dungeon was an indoor Rotor.
Is there an indoor rotor hidden someplace around there?
As for the Snowman... seeing that this park is in the heart of the "Redneck Riviera", the music it blares is of course Country. *** Edited 7/23/2004 2:33:09 PM UTC by SLFAKE***
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