Trip Report: Minnesota/Wisconsin 2008 - Day 2
August 31, 2007
Wisconsin Dells - Mt. Olympus, Timber Falls
Wisconsin Dells, WI
T-Shirt of the Day: 2007 Holiwood Nights shirt - "Attack of the Airtime Monster"
"My Big Fat Greek Theme Park"
Here begins Day 2 of the trip. As noted at the end of Day 1, we are starting somewhere between 4:30-5 AM getting up, getting prepared, and getting ready for the four hour trip to Wisconsin Dells. Which we do, and somewhere between 5:30-5:45 we are out on the road.
Our departure time is such that we will be able to clear downtown Minneapolis just before morning rush hour, even if that does mean having the sun in our eyes again. We cross into Wisconsin, and here I admit I slept most of the rest of the way to the Dells. I did note the highway patrol was in full force in its role as the Wisconsin Welcoming Committee, seeing as they like to handle traffic tickets for out of state drivers on a cash right now basis. You may recall when ACE had an event in the Dells a couple years ago, they felt the need to publish a strongly worded warning about the speed trap nature of driving in Wisconsin. No such bad news would befall us, however, and at around 9:40am we are pulling off the interstate and heading into Wisconsin Dells.
We did not, however, rush directly to the park. We were going to spend the night in Wisconsin Dells, and our hotel, like many in the area, offers package deals which supposedly include "Free Mt. Olympus admission for every registered guest" Well, we added the Mt. Olympus option after already having reserved a room there, so we know exactly how much those "free" tickets cost us, and we also knew that was the best rate we could find. So, we stopped off at the hotel, picked up our tickets (labeled "Complimentary" of course) and also found out our room was ready for immediate occupancy. So we also grabbed room keys, got back into the car, then headed to Mt. Olympus.
WIsconsin Dells is a big toursity area centered around the Dells, which are reportedly a wonder of nature in their beauty. It also contains craft stores, and a lot of tourist attractions. The Dells can also be referred to as a tourist trap, and I have heard the term "vacum cleaner for your wallet" used. So make a right at the intersection that has two mini golf places (one of those with a rollercoaster). then go down the road, past the deer park, a waterpark, Riverview Park amusement park (aka the carnival that setup in the Dells and never left), a haunted house, a fun house, "Top Secret" - and who knows whats in that upside down white house, they never tell you, but people still line up. Pickup point for the Original Dells Ducks, Extreme World - full of all kinds of extreme attractions, like bungee, SCAD and more. Oh here it is on the right, growing bigger every time I see it: Mt. Olympus.
It has been fun over the years watching the place go from being an FEC to a theme park. It used to be just a go kart place, but it seems they have always been expansionistic. Before I arrived on their property the very first time, they had already acquired Crazy King Ludwigs, which was a competing go-kart operator next door, and had owned another go-kart place in another part of town, Big Chiefs Kart World. They started drawing the attention of the coaster enthusiasts when they started installing wood coasters in and around their go-kart tracks. A name change to Big Chiefs Kart and Coaster World. But these weren't tame little wood coasters, these were noteworthy coasters that grabbed the enthusiast community by storm, causing many to discover Wisconsin Dells for the first time, and to see what this little go-kart place was doing. (Other than keeping Custom Coasters real busy)
Between my first and second trips to the park, they had managed to buy out the outdoor water park that was behind them, the indoor water park that was next door, and the hotel that was associated with that indoor water park. Thus, the property changed to "Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park", the property was gated, and a gate charge levied, even to those who had no intention in partaking in the attractions, a massive parking lot was added, and lots of general improvements like new restrooms (people who remember the old Big Chiefs restrooms are still cheering), and Crazy King Ludwig's castle was rethemed to look like an ancient greek building, with shops and eateries. On the ride side, both a water coaster and the parks 4th wood coaster (and Gravity Groups very first coaster) were built.
For this visit, I hear they have brought in some more rides, added an indoor theme park, and added another rollercoaster. This time, it was a steel coaster, a Zamperla spinning mouse coaster to be exact We pull into the massive parking lot, made even more massive as I think there are signs that a divider between their parking lot, and the one for Top Secret have been removed. I wonder just how many more of the town's attractions the Mt. Olympus people own that they haven't admitted to owning. I should point out, though, that its the massive FREE parking lot. We pull in and find a space, there is also evidence that the parking lot has already been restriped with a different traffic pattern.
We were parked near the main drop into the tunnel on Hades, and to my right I noted a Group Sales office. Some of you may recall that on my last 2005 trip, two-day tickets were sold out of Group Sales, which was only available in a little building on the waterpark side of the property. I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, parks actually read my TR's because I am starting to see some of the problems I talk about in my TR's corrected.
We head to the left, and I notice a new gift shop has been built, in the parking lot. I didn't make the connection at first, but I should have. We pass the new gift shop and head to the impressive entrance plaza that was built for the Mt. O transformation. Big greek stately looking plaza with the statue of a Greek warrior on top. Because of the way Mt. O operates, even though we still had advance tickets we still had to stop at the ticket plaza. We found an open window with no waiting, and soon our tickets were taken, scanned, and wristbands issued. We even got receipts which, to no surprise, claim we used comp tickets with a value of $0.00. So I follow Jerry's lead and use the window ledge of an unopened window as a way to facillitate appying the wristband to yourself. (Place band upside down on ledge, put arm on top of wristband, then you bring the ends up and fasten.) That chore done, we entered the park.
On my last visit, I had noted the park entrance was down an insanely steep hill that ran from the parking lot to and area that was the core of the old Big Chiefs. That path was fenced off, and a new path was created that ran alongside the parking lot behind Zeus. Ah now I get it, this new path takes you around to the rear of that new gift shop in the parking lot. At this point there are three from the parking lot: the one from the main ticket plaza on one side, the path down from the group sales building on the other side, and the park exit path in the center. As you have probably concluded the park exit path runs directly into the gift shop. This is just more of that transformation into a full fledged theme park. At the gate they have one person sitting there to inspect incoming guests for wristbands, and to divert all exiting guests into the gift shop. There is a chain and stanchion barrier directing exiting guests into the gift shop, but they divert all those who try to beat the system.
From, this point the path turns and goes downhill. I soon realize this new entry/exit path becomes what used to be the Zeus entrance ramp. I wonder if part of this decision is that from what I have seen Zeus isn't very popular, and with the entrance path moved, I wonder how many people are about to do what we did, which was to walk directly up those Zeus entrance stairs as we entered the park. So up all those stairs we go, through the turnstile, and head to that back car.
We noted the front of the back car had been roped off, literally with some multi colored yellow rope blocking the seat queue, and some purple rope tied through and around the seatbelts and lap bars keeping the bars lowered at all times. Whoever though white is a good color choice for a coaster train should see this train. A white train would seem to require almost daily washings, which this train is not appearing to receive.
We climb into that back seat, drop the ratcheting lapbars, fasten the shared seat belt, and prepare for a ride on Zeus. Zeus drops right out of the station, and then a turnaround to the left brings the ride to the chain lift. Up the chain lift you go, then a turn to the left. Zeus is an out and back style coaster which means basically we are going to go over a series of hills on the way out, turnaround, then come back over another series of hills, then make a right turn into the brakes, then there is a drop between the brakes and the station. Zeus was reported, upon opening to feature lots of floater air on the way out, then a couple strong airtime moments on the way back. That may still be the case, and it would work well if it were a smooth ride, but the ride seems to bottom out and pothole at the bottom of every drop. Penalty flag on the play for unnecessary roughness. Zeus, has not aged very well.
From Zeus we exit down the stairs into what I call Exit Land. Both Hades annd Zeus have their exit stairs right by each other, then share a common midway width path back down to the main path.
Back at the main path, we take a right, and head to Hades. You know, someone once quipped that diplomacy is defined as telling somebody to go to hell, and have them looking forward to the trip. So it is here, as we pass under the impressive HADES archway, then we pass under the cut through under the first drop. Here I notice the park has gone with new safety rules and height signs. What I was impressed about is they used the style where they put the various warnings on cartoon character signs, like the big parks used to do before they started making ride safety signs look like a scary legal document. One of the signs indicated the wait would be an hour if it extended back to the sign, given the way Mt. Olympus operates rides, I would say that is an understatement.
We enter the queue, which takes the form of a ramp up through the infield of the ride, where you turn and go up a much steeper ramp, then you turn again, and the path in front of you gets much steeper in the form of 4 flights of stairs. More than a couple people refer to this place as Stairmaster Park. The line was already halfway down the stairs. When we got to the top, you can notice where they have fenced off the queue gates for the last car they never have installed. Mt. O is not known for doing fences very fell, and the stairway for Hades takes you quite close to the tracks. I see they have used the finest cheap looking plastic latice work as fencing. This same plastic latice work has been installed in the station from the railing up to the ceiling.
For our first ride, we opt to hold out for the back seat. This allowed me to witness a truly scary sight, and that is the way the ride is operated. Everything is fine until they dispatch the train. Then the person on the unload side working the main console, and the person on the load side, working the co-dispatch console, both leave their consoles, walk over to the sides of the track channel, then sit down with their feet sitting on the track rails holding a conversation. They continue to do this until the train comes back to the brake run, then they get up just before the train rolls down the drop from the brake run into the station. Also, from what i witnessed, no button presses are needed to stop the train in the brakes, advance it from the brakes to the station, then stop it in the station. The ride is automated as far as it can be, which leads to spells where you have bored ride operators. Perhaps a change in park policy allowed this to happen. You see, Mt. Olympus used to be a pay per ride park, (with POP plans offered), and that time
when the coaster trains were out on the course, used to be when the load side operator would allow people past the turnstile after checking for tickets/wristands and other ride restriction. It probably one of those situations that is safe 99.9% of the time, even if big name parks would cringe if they saw their ride attendants act that way. However, I am thinking of that 1 in a thousand freak acciddent, I know I would not want to be around the cycle the brake run fails, and send the train barelling into the station. This appears, though to be standard Mt. O operating procedure for Hades, at least when there are no other staff members up on the platform, when that happens, they suddenly know how to behave.
So, enough with that, its time to ride, we take our seats, ratchet bars, shared seatbelt. Wait, I thought this ride opened with individual seatbelts. Hades starts with a pre lift sequence that has more action than some full length wood coasters. You start with a drop right out of the station, then a curve to the right, back up a little bit, then down into an extended double down with a turn in the middle of it. You then curve around some more then its up a short hill, into the rides fourth drop. Thats four good drops before the lift hill, with good air on three of them. You then curve around again to start up the life. I see they worked out the math, as the lift chain does not go all the way to the bottom of the lift hill, it only goes down as far as they need. We then climb the lift hill which goes over the station roof, and then, "Hands Up Everybody!", its the main drop, which is set so that you are in clear view of the parking lot and the people driving down the main drag. It seems natural for people to raise their hands here, even if it's the only time on the whole ride. You can also, almost always see people standing in the parking lot taking photos of trains coming down the drop.
Here comes the signature element, the long tunnel under the parking lot. This is not your ordinary coaster tunnel, as this one has drops, hills, curves, and a 90 degree baked section within it, Welcome to the underground coaster. At the other end of the tunnel, you come blasting out for a brief above ground moment. Up the turnaround hill, then a curving drop, then another hill and a wondefully airtime laden drop through greek temple ruins back into the tunnel. This area is the best coaster billboard for a park, thinking outside the park, the coaster leaves the park, goes under the parking lot, and comes out to do a few tricks right up alongisde the main drag. What better advertisement, than to see people having fun. It's a genius move.
Anyway, its back through the tunnel for more surprises, and when you emerge from the other side, you go up a hill that runs right alongside the main drop, except not as high obviously. You do curve and go through a wonderful set of headchoppers as you dive through the lift hill structure. For some reason, I thought this hill had airtime, but it doesn't. You then dive under the station, giving the station platform quite a shake in the process. You finish up with an extended figure 8 element that circles the queue area and the brake run. This part of the ride exhibits some unbelievable shuffling, and has been termed by some people as why the ride has gotten too rough. Funny, I thought this section was rough and shuffled when I rode it two years ago, not really a noticeable change. You know its Gravity Group when the train finishes the course on a fast paced upward journey to the brake run. Pause, then its down a little drop into the station. We then exit the ride and head down the stairs to the exit area.
Well, after 4 hours of travel and 2 coaster rides, it was time to get a little business taken care of, so we headed to what was the front of the park. I'm not sure I can call it the front of the park anymore. When it was Big Chiefs, you entered between Pegasus and the kiddie rides area, then when the entrance was redone, you entered between the kiddie rides area and Cyclops, but still in the same general location. Now you enter between Cyclops and Zeus, which means that the long dead end trail to the wood coasters can now be considered the park entrance. Does this mean the front of the park is now back by Zeus? If you define the front of the park as where you enter, I would sat it does.
This means that as you enter, Zeus is on the entrance path, and at the bottom, the Hades rollercoaster and Poseidon Go-Kart track are to the right, and everything else is to the left. A word about go-karts, I have tried Mt. Olympus' go karts and have found them to be slow with non responsive steering, and generally suck, I also note they tend to have long slow lines, so I just sort of ignored them.
Coming down the hill towards the core, we passed by a play area that looked like the deck of a pirate ship, totally random there, and then walking further down the hill, we noted there is a consession stand in the side of the ship. The ship actually does make some sense, thematically as it sits between Poseidon and Dive to Atlantis. Next we pass the aforementioned watercoaster, Dive to Atlantis. It's ride has been clocked at over 15 minutes, and with only 3 or so 4 or 5 passenger boats at most, its an arduously long wait. I have the credit, so I skipped it this year.
Past Dive to Atlantis is a shaded sitting area and then a booth that used to servce as the main ticket booth. Now, I think it still does a small business in ride tickets, (per the Dells Price Guide, a single amusement ride ticket at Mt. O can be purchased for $6.50 on top of the $10 general admission *spectator* charge. ) However, the main use for this booth is actually a relatively cutting edge idea, "Cash on Wristband". This idea is you get a barcoded wristband, then you can make a deposit to a house account represented by that barcode. Then you enjoy your day in the park, and whenever you need to spend money you can just have the attendant charge it to your wristband. I did note, that at the end of the day, they advertise you can cash out any unspent balance on your wristband. That's a really neat concept, given the fact that the park has a major water park component, and the ability to give kid's money they can only spend, not lose.
We then come into what used to be the core of the park, the ride ticket booth we just passed, the original gift shop (still open but it doubles as a coffee bar), concession stands, restrooms, and an eating area. What used to the the main park entrance has also been fenced off at the bottom of the hill, and now the kiddieland, Torjan Horse go-karts, and Pegasus coaster are in a dead end area, instead of being at the park entrance.
So we take care of business, then walk down behind the concession stand. In this area there is a cluster of go-kart tracks (yawn again, however I do note that go-kart tracks seem to being quietly removed, like Medusa's Drop). In front of the go-kart tracks, the park has added a small 4-seat model of the popular S&S Screamin Swing ride, which the park calls "Apollo's Swing" Apollo's Swing was not yet open for the day, with a crew working on it, focusing mainly on the on-ride video system. The bad news, is this ride is not included in the Pay One Price admission plan. Even worse, I heard at the start of the season, it was going for an almost reasonable $5 per ride, to an obnoxious $10 per ride. I have a very hard time for paying $10 to ride this ride, when later this weekend, I can a similar ride for free. But, the ride is not yet open, so lets keep moving down the path.
We decide to take a trip through the park. The next ride we passed was Little Titans, which is the park's children's coaster. Luckily, I was able to snag this credit before the park discovered the "You must be shorter than or accompanied by" rule. Right after Little Titans I recall on my last visit the park had a grand midway that seemed to go nowhere, just a dead end. Now it makes sense, as the midway runs right into the new outdoor waterpark expansion. We dodge the waterpark expansion and headed to the right. We pass one of the parks numerous "Information" booths, these are dubious information booths, as normally guest services booth don't need to be flashed with "Have dinner on us, ask us how!" signs. Yep, these booths are really time share booths just waiting to ambush the unwitting tourist.
We continued to the next major turn in the path, here are some more go-kart tracks, and remarkably the batting cages remain. I notice in the corner of the park, a DUCK is parked. In this case a DUCK is the amphibious vehicle. Upon closer look, it appears that it is one of the Dells Army Duck. That would make sense, as Original Dells Ducks has a boarding point right across the street from the park. Next to the DUCK was a wooden stairway pushed up to it to facilitate loading, and I note a similar wooden stairway sitting just a few feet away. Also next to the duck, is a ticket booth, as this is an extra charge attraction. It looked as if the idea was to board the duck there, but I noticed the duck parked there did not seem to move all day. Either there was very little interest in riding the Ducks, or they merely sell tickets at that booth, and refer you to a meet up point elsewhere in town. I like the idea of having pickups in the park, as that keeps the guests in the park longer, a brilliant move on the part of Mt. Olympus? Why let your guests leave to go take one of the Dells most popular tours and then risk them not coming back, when you can get a cut of the ticket money, have them board the duck right in your park, and most importantly have them dropped back off in your park.
I note the park map is fluid, even the one on the website is not quite up to date. Appaently the Duck pickup was in front of the park by Pegasus. The park, and Extreme World had also both advertised that the extreme attractions were coming to Mt. O but apparently that did not happen.
We continued around the park to the area where Crazy King Ludwig's castle was. On my last trip, this was the line between the ride side and water side of the park. The castle became a greek themed building, and was filled with shops and eateries I notice this year the arcade in th center has been removed and replaced with a locker room for the water park. More to the point, the little pond in the front of the park, has been replaced by Poseidon's Rage, a fairly agressive sounding wave pool. (Waves up to 9' high). Also in the front of the park is Triton, a waterslide tower. These waterpark attractions are a fair walk from the remained of the outdoor waterpark, and this waterpark expansion area as even been known to have different hours.
In terms of rides, I notice the Disk'O that was sitting in front of the "Shops at Mt. Olympus" building has been moved elsewhere in the park. The Robocoaster is still there, but it was labeled as not going to operate today. Bummer, that. I did note the Robocoaster is no longer part of the POP package.
We continued along the main pathway and passed three games of skill. The noteworthy thing here is the price, all the games were 3 tries for $1. Sure, the prizes looked to be on the dinky size, but what to you expect for 33.3 cents per try. It's an interesting business model in times where parks are up to $3 per try for a midway game. It will be interesting to see how it works out for them.
Just past the game joints is the new Parthenon building. The Parthenon is the much touted "indoor theme park" So, we stepped inside. Inside the building, the most notable feature is the Zamperla spinning mouse coaster called "Opa!" Opa! sits the to left and takes up most of the left half of the building. In the front on the left hand side is one of those dubious info booths, restrooms, and vending machines. I suppose in the summer, they just use vending machines in here, as you have the big food building almost right next door. To the right when you enter is a lazer tag, and an arcade. The arcade had no pinball, but I noted it has those Deal or No Deal machines. Down the center aisle is a Zamplera mini tea cups and a Moser Spring Ride, as well as a karaoke video booth. Along the back wall dead ahead is a Zamperla Central Park, to the right is a bumper car ride. Don't get too excited the cars look real slow and the ride doesn't look that interesting. To the left is a climb around attraction and the Zamplerla Disk'O. Also in this area I noted a replacement socks vending machine. Why is this not over by Dive To Atlantis?
The Disk'O operator looked bored, so we went over to see if it was open. The Disk'O is sandwiched between the side wall of the building and Opa!, which sort of sets up a queue area be default. The attendant comes down, opens the gate and admits us into the ride. I note that it looks like lots of seats are marked Out of Order. We find two seats that appear to be open. Disk'O consists of a U shaped track with a big round spinning disk ride car in. The round ride car has 24 seats facing outward. The neat thing is the seats themselves, which look like motorbike seats. You straddle the seat, and lean up against the front of the seat, then an automatic combination safety bar/backrest comes out of the base of the seat, raises up and claps tight against your back. Thats how its supposed to work, but it took a couple tries until Jerry and I both found seats that worked properly.
Looking out at the track, a good deal of the abbraisive/traction surface on the ride rails appeared to be worn clean off, which meant the ride squeals some as it gets started. The ride didn't seem to spin as fast as i remembered it, but just wait halfway through the ride, the direction of rotation reverses, and then as the ride goe on the ride acts more and more maniacal finging back and forth along the course faster and faster while the disc spins faster and faster, and it seems to want tofly clean off the ends of the track. Yep, the Disk'O is still a great ride, its just that this particular example needs some serious rehab.
The exit to Disk'O takes you on a pathway behind Opa!. Opa! is not set flesh with the building wall, which may also be meant to prevent people from reaching out and touching the walls. We next decided to ride Opa!, the line for Opa! was down the stairs and wrapped around the side of the ride,but not too far back. We thought, this won't be a long wait at all. Then we saw how the park operates it. You see at carnivals, they have a ticket taker, a grouper, a person loading you into the cars, a person checking lapbars, then a person in back unloading people, and the cars never stop moving, and they have enough cars on where it works like a well oiled assembly line.
Not here, here they try to run it with one person. Here is how it works, the bring a car up to the front of the station, then they open the gate and let the next group in. There is no attempt to pair up groups, the person seats the group and has them lower their lapbar. Then I think thee is a design flaw, as our loader could not reach the lapbars on the two far seats. Therefore, what she did was climb down of the platform, onto and over the track rails so that she was standing in the middle of the track, between the track rails. She would then check the lap bars, then have to climb back out of the track channel to the ride platform, then dispatch the car. By this time it is time to walk to the back of the station, unload a car,walk back to the front of the station, then advance the cars in the station ahead one slot. Note that they had two cars sitting on the storage track,
So after an agonizingly slow wait, whee I had time to read the "Roller Coaster Rules" sign, which I note is the same exact sign for all the coasters, right down to the "You must be 18 or over to ride in the back car of Cyclops" printed on all the coasters signs. We do make it onto the ride, and Zamperla took a nice ride and messed it up. Seat cushions, GONE, hard molded seats with seat horns in,and the individual ratcheting lap bars. My main problem is that the Zamperla version does not seem to spin as well as the Reverchon. Being indoors was a different experience, but overall the ride was pretty meh. But wait, time to sound the coaster credit meter for Coaster # 265.
After Opa, we backtrack out way towards the wood coasters. We catch the end of a cycle of Apollo's Swing, and prepare to watch a full cycle to see what you get for $10, but there was no group waiting to ride, so we passed it up for now. As it turns out, that was a bad move. Speaking of bad moves, instead of heading straight to Cyclops, avoiding Pegasus, I decide to go take a ride on Pegasus, and Jerry follows, all "Do we really have to?" Pegasus is not my favorite ride at Mt. Olympus, and I think I ride it each visit just to remind myself how awful it is. I mean can CCI really turn out a ride that was this bad. The entrance to Pegasus is a marked opening under the lift hill, and then past an abandoned go kart station. You then come to the stairs (this is Mt. O afterall), Pegasus was meant to be a children's coaster, and that fact is driven home in that the stairway and handrails for both entrance and exit were clearly designed with the younger set in mind. We get up to the station and it does run a full size train, albeit only 4 2 bench cars long. It now runs a PTC train, but legend has it, Pegasus was the second coaster to attempt and fail to run CCI's in house designed 3 car 3 bench train. The park never did reconfigure the queue gates when they changed the train, they just keep one roped off at all times, and they don't really line up to the train at all. On the way to the platform, Jerry reminds me that if I value my body, that we each sit in our own row, on the unload side of the train. Well the front of the back car on this coaster is roped off. So I take the back seat, and Jerry finds an open spot near the middle of the train. I dutifully sit on the unload side, and with a little trouble, fasten the standard PTC install short outboard side seatbelt, and pull down the lapbar. I note Jerry started to sit on the unload side, but by the time the train dispatched he was on the load side. Once nice touch I like about the ride is the use of a big old lever in the station. Note, I did not say big old brake lever, instead this big old lever controls the lapbar mechanism.
The train departs the station, and the train lurches like it is fighting to negotiate the curve to the lift hill, up the lift. Now the ride has no real big drop, just a few shallow drops. In the past I had noted the rides most redeeming feature is that the big flat top section serves nicely as a flagpole rack for a collection of international flags. This year, it lost that redeeming feature as the flagpoles sat empty. So you go down a couple shallow dips, and then a collection of brutally sharp right turns that slam you into the side of the cars. If there is one thing Pegasus has its laterals, but the way it executes them, it isn't even pleasant. In true CCI fashion, even though the ride does no real drops, it still seems to continue to pickup speed all along the course. I was happyu the ride was shorter than I remembered it, and we could soon get down the exit stairs and start heading to Cyclops.
On the way to Cyclops, I aksed Jerry what the deal was with him sitting on the wrong side of the train. He reported that the seatbelt on the unload side of his bench was so badly damaged it could not be adjusted, so he had to sit on the wrong side of the train, and wasn't exactly happy about it. We head to Cyclops, Cyclops has maybe the fewest stairs required to ride a Mt. O wood coaster, and is the only one that has a wheelchair ramp up to the station. I still don't get the part where you enter the station in the back, then go down a real sharp, short ramp down maybe 2 feet, then walk to the front of the station, then back up 2 feet with another sharp ramp. The only thing I can come up with, is that is to discourage running. Er enter Cyclops and head to that magical 18 and over car. (the back car) Due to the demographics of the crowd in this part of the park, at this time, we had almost exclusive access to the back car. For ride 1, we both sat in the back seat, and I noted the metal tongue on the seatbelt is BENT like 45 degrees, suggesting somebody needed to test the integrity of the seatbelt, then again it is a shared belt, and the tongue may have gotten outside the car somwhere it shouldn't have. The best news is the ride till uses the drop down buzz bars.
The train taks a curve out of the station, and up the relatively short lift hill, the ride comes quite close to Zeus, so thatr if you focus your attention on Zeus you are caught off guard as you crest the lift, and is that airtime on the first drop, then a speed hill, then yep thats some nice airtime on the second drop. You then turnarond and slice back through the structure with another drop and then a ride into the signature element, you see the midway in front of the ride sits much lower than the ride itself, so the rides major drop is actually the last one! You come around a high right turn, and you are facing the midway, and the train has a nice head of steam behind it, you then go down an incredibly steep drop with a twist at the bottom. Those riders in the back seat suddenly see their life pass in front of their eyes. Dear God, keep me in this car! This is one of the single best airtime moments on any wood coaster. You know its quality air if you feel the seatbelt grab hard at you, and if you ride with a loose seatbelt, your knees getting a rude introduction to the lap bar. If you want ejector quality air, this here is the ride for you! After "The Drop" you do a turnaround in a trench in front of the station, unfortunatelyu this part washboards some, then you come back up as you circle the station building and come onto the brake run in back of the station. Another turnaround takes you back into the sttion. It's short, its a one trick pony, but oh what a trick it is.
We walked around, yes you have to walk all the way around, even if the station is completely empty, it says so in the rules, no exceptions. We head back for the magical back car, I take the back seat, and Jerry moves up a seat, so that we have more elbow room. That back seat, and that drop, alone in the car, with a loose belt, that is one of wood coaster's greatest moments. I decided to ham it up and scream bloody murder all the way down the drop. I've pulled this trick before, on Rideman, on the Kennywood Jack Rabbit, another ride known for out of this world backseat air.. Sorry Jack Rabbit, you have nothing on this. You see, I very rarely scream on a coaster, and then very very rarely ever scree bloody murder. In both cases, I had Rideman and this time Jerry whipping around in their seat fearing the worst and hoping I was okay. In humor, timing is everything. I didn't have time to gloat about getting Jerry, cause the next thing I know I was screaming in real pain as I managed to land right on top of the seat divider. Yeouch, that hurt, but it only stung for a few moments.
We proceeded to ride Cyclops three or four more times, basically until the sensation caused by "The Drop" wore off. We alternated between the two seats in the back car, only after that ride I starteed sitting on the unload side of the train, like Jerry did. I had avoided that side because thats where the side that has the lap bar mechanism in the car at perfect height to abuse your shins. I figured that was better than any more seat divider landings.
After Cyclops, we skipped Zeus and headed straight back to Hades for a Hade ride session, basically defined as riding the ride over and over again. We took about 5 back to back rides on Hades in this set. (Yes, walking around of course, particularly since the line varied from beiing halfway down to 3/4 of the way down the stairs, I think once it was even clean down to the bottom. Jerry prefers the back, I prefer the front so we alternated ends of the train, how is that for the buddy system. Then since the way the station is laid out, with the entrance being in the back of the station, the cramped nature of the station, and the fact that visitors here don't seem as bent on waiting for the front seat, we took all but one of our front end rides in the front seat. Hades was already performing better than it did during our early morning ride, and seemed to get better with each lap. We basically rode over and over until around 2:30 when we decided to take a meal break. Besides the riding, maybe the best part was talkign with a group of first time Hades riders, and seeing their reactions when they got back to the station. Some were priceless.
We then headed out of the park, up the hill by Zeus, and through the gift shop. The giftshop is set up so you have to walk from one end to the other, but that patch is mostly obstruction free. I noted on the exit doors, they have a sign about remembering to cash in unused balance on your wristband. Nice touch, as they could have kept quiet and hoped people found their way a 100 miles from the park, with no way to cash the band.
We took a drive through town, past Extreme World, and I noted a new facade has been applied to the Mt. Olympus Resort but it looks more Roman Colliseum than Greek to me, and I noted the dumpy motel next to it is now the "Mt. Olympus Value Motel" A bit further we passed by the famous Noah's Ark waterpark, and the Pizza Pub, which is a often mentioned pizza buffet, a bit later past Tommy Bartlett's place, and some boat tours and hotels and we come to Moosejaw on the other side of town.
Moosejaw is a brewpup/pizza parlor. It has the rustic hunting lodge look, with antler themed chandeliers, fireplaces, rustic log cabin look, and drinks out of mason jars. Moosejaw is a Canadian chain, (the Canadian flag in the lobby should have told you), and in addition to a brewpub for beer, they also make their own root beer, orange soda, and grape soda. The word of caution is that the word "small" is not in their vocabulary. We started with a nice order of cheese sticks, which instead of beeing deep fried like almost anywhere else come out almost looking mexican inspired with a hard tortilla like shell. Jerry then had a 1/2 lb huge hamburger and fries, while I had what has to be the world's largest calzone (pepperoni, sausage, green pepper for those keeping score) Great food, big portions, fast service, and a reasonable price coming in at just around $35 before tip for the two of us, in a tourist resort town. Keep watch for their delivery PT Cruiser with moose antlers on top. We caught it right timing wise, when we arrived we walked right in, when we left people were waiting out on the porch.
We left Moosejaw, and returned to Mt. Olympus. We had to park further out than we did in the morning, and we learned that whatever genius painted the parking lot has ALL the arrows heading towards the park, and none of the arrows painted away from the park. This works fine as long as their are parking attendants, if not, if you choose a row that has no space left, you can either exit the lot, reenter and try again (and good luck with that left hand turn out on the main drag), or take your chances, and go again the traffic arrows. Most take the later course of action. We wind up parking out past the Group Sales building, and I note behind Group Sales there is a pathway marked Park Entrance, and the gate was open. We head down the hill, passing behind Hades lift hill, and come out by the gift shop. There is a chain blocking our way into the park. Main if they didn't want this ramp used, why didn't they block it at the other end of the ramp. We decided we were smarter than the chain and clip, and proceeded on into the park with no resistance. On the way into the park, we snagged a back seat ride on Zeus. Nope hasn't gotten any better.
From Zeus we head down to Hades for another mini marathon riding session, and hey the line is getting shorter, only 1/4 to 1/2 of the way down the stairs. They way Mt. Olympus operates their wood coasters, is that if there aren't enough riders to fill the train, they will wait a few minutes to see if anybody else come,s, if they have enough riders, however they will run the ride as long as every row is full. Single riders are OK, but there must be at least one person in each row. Of course they don't explain this to anybody, as that would involve speaking, they just wait there with the queue gates open until somebody figures it out and claims that undesired seat. I think their operators have a very limited phrase book they are working with, and if you ask them any question not in their phrase book, they are unable to answer it, and they can only respond with their limited phrasing. I have doubts that they can understand much less communicate in the English language. I hate to use the term Eastern European to describe them, as other parks, like Valleyfair, also employ Eastern European, and they are much friendlier and have more command of the language. Everything is black and white with them, which is why I usually refer to them as vogons.
We take several more Hades rides. We then go to check out the Swing and the other end of the park, We get down to the swing, and they had either had mechanical troubles or had given up on the day already. So much for Apollo's Swing. We kept walking,and that same DUCK is still parked there. We eventually head into the indoor theme park, and find Opa! with a longer line than the one we suffered through. No, thanks.
Since we did walk all the way down here, we headed back to Disk'O, maybe 20 people in line. It was then that I realized how bad of shape the ride was in. Out of 24 seats on the ride, only 8 were in safe operating condition. What should have been a one cycle wait took 3 or 4 cycles. I don't know why we stuck through it. After riding Disk'O, one last look at Opa!, nope that line keeps getting longer.
We head all the way back to Hades, but look that DUCK is moving! Oh wait the passenger less DUCK is moving and the ticket office is closed. They must be calling it a night just like the swing operator. We make it back to Hades, and finish out with one more multi ride Hades session going till about 7pm. And hey, we even get one or two rides with no waiting. For some reason the Hades line seems to have died down for a bit, but then it picked back up. The park was schduled to close at 8pm, it was already 7pm. We decided we had our fair share of Mt, Olympus rides, and besides we had prepurchased tickets to Timber Falls, so wanted to make sure we got our money's worth there. Timber Falls was scheduled to be open till 10pm, but you never know if the crowd is light.
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 Skyscrpaper. 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 tommorow for only $12.50 each, including a Skyscraper ride that runs $20 by itself. ($10 with a valid POP armband) We bought the 4 ticket package and planned to drop by for a few hours tonight, then an hour or so in the morning for a wake up.
We pull into the small but ample Timber Falls parking lot to find an open, yet sparsely populated park. We go to the ticket booth in the center of the park, head to the line for e-Ticket redemption, and get a clerk who clearly has no idea how to handle the e-tickets. She looks them over, puts them in the cash drawer without scanning and issues wristbands. We ask about our Skyscraper rides, and she seemed puzzled and even after seeing the e-tickets I don't think she was all that sure about it. She was nice enough however, shrugged and tore two Skyscraper tickets off the roll and handed them to us.
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, a train pulls in, and the riders in the back car move to different seats, the queue gates open and we boar 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 tried 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 spee hill with ejector air that slams you up into the lap bar, holds you there for a seond 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. "Attack of the Airtime Monster" indeed. 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.
After about an hour we looked around, and after having better than ERT conditions on the coaster, as in just the two of us riding for several rides. we took most of the rides in the back car, then moved up to the front car. Jerry said, "It's not as intense up here", well thats a relative statement, as due to the short trains, I don't think there is that much differance in the front and back cars.
After an hour we exited the coaster and took a look around. 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 operatin.
We wanted to be sure to get to the Skyscraper before they closed down early due to small attendance. We first stowed everything in the car, then walked over to the Skyscraper where there was a single rider on the ride, and the rest of his group on the bleachers setup for spectators. Since we had tickets, we got to sit in the riders lounge area at the bottom of the stairs up to the ride. After his ride ended, we were invited up 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, for small talk he asked if we hae ever done one of these before and we both enthusiastically said we had, and then Jerry mentioned how many times he has been on a Skyscraper, thanks mostly to the fact he bought a season pass upgrade at Valleyfair that includes their Skyscraper. I let the operator live with the impression I was also very experienced. He had this big grin on his face that said, "I'm gonna have so much fun!"
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. We ecnouraged those watching us to come over and get in line themselves. 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.
After Skyscraper we take about another half an hour worth of Avalanche rides. At this point we had to exit the ride, and we then decided tht since Jerry had driven 4 hours this morning, and had another 4 hours tomorrow, tht we would just call it a night. It was 9PM at this point anyway, and we had been at coasters for nearly 10 hours. We did stop at Arby's on the way to the hotel for shakes (love that Jamocha), then we headed to the Best Western Ambassador Inn.
I am happy to report we had better luck with the building access system this year, and our room was satisfactory. Jerry went straight to the internet, and i decided to check out the hotel pool. They have both indoor and outdoor pools, and I elected the outdoor pool. It's a nice pool area, with a kiddie water area with zero depth entry, bubblers, and a mushroom fountain. Then the main pool, but even it has a waterfall in it, on the other end is a sitting area and a hot tub. The area even has changing rooms, and right inside the hotel are vending machines and an arcade.
I swim and hot tub for about an hour. I learned my swim skills are very rusty, I could sake myself, but it wouldn't look pretty. 1 cycle in the hot tub did wonders to ease the abuse my feet and side had been taking all day. While I was out there there was a group of teens who had discovered the kiddie pool was not heated, and the main pool was nice and warm, and then there was the hot tub. They were having fun going from one to the other, and feeling the effects of submerging themselves in varrying temperatures of water. I'm thinking that can't be good for you.
After my swim, it was time to head back to the room and call it a night. Tomorrow is more Timber Falls, then we return to Minneapolis for some Valleyfair action.
Watch for that TR whenever I get to it.
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