A friend and I hit a bunch of parks this weekend past. Here's the
Day one - drove from NYC through PA. Two of the parks we wanted to hit
- Kennywood and Altoona, were not open on Friday, so we headed to Lake
Conneut...err...Coconut...err...the place where Blue Streak is.
Got there about 4pm, which was opening time. This is one odd place. It
seems half abandoned with a real "ghost town" midway complete with
scary looking Lake Chippewa-style decay. Neato. The theme of this
place is "musty." The innards of many rides smell like the inside of
an old pinball machine stuffed with ancient National Geographics.
Rode the dark ride there (I think it's called Devil's Den.) Reminded
me of the one at Camden. Very musty, pretty quick and fun. The Blue
Streak was not operating at opening, because the guy who runs it was
helping to fix the Tumblebug. You'll certainly never say a sentence
like that at a Six Flags park.
The Tumblebug was up and running, so we took a spin. Neat little ride.
I'm not huge on flats but it's a classic and very rare, and the guy
operating it is very proud of it so it was fun to check out. They had
it running really fast. A shame more people won't get to ride one of
Moved on to the Blue Streak. Again, the guy (one person!!) operating
and manning the Blue Streak is very proud of it, and he does a great
job running it. Also the same guy who maintains it. The coaster
certainly has some charm - nice long tunnel (although I could have
done without the drops of warm, standing and mosquito egg infested
water that I got twice on my head in the tunnel) but it's rough as
hell and the second half after the turnaround is pretty boring. Love
the Century Flyer trains too of course. Good air in the back on the
first hill but it's followed by a spine-crunching jolt. The guy
running it blamed this on the Amish, who apparently made the bottom of
the hill transition too abrupt when they built this thing in the 30s.
The third hill (last before the turnaround) is all brand new and was
Cool old ride in the woods but it beat me up pretty good. The operator
was great and once even sent us through the ride TWICE without even
stopping it - now that's a first for me and it was really fun.
After this we drove about an hour up to Waldmeer to check out the
Ravine Flyer II. This is a pretty cool coaster, with the breathtaking
view of Lake Erie. It absolutely screams down that first hill, over
the highway and back, with a bunch of air throughout the first half
including all sorts of crazy shit in the tunnels. Unfortunately I
found this coaster a bit too rough for it to be among my favorites. I
also thought the second half (after the tunnel) was a little dull.
Their funhouse was great "Wacky Shack" - really loved the use of
blacklights and it's a nice long ride with some cool stuff. Their walk-
through funhouse, Pirates Cove, is also great. Neat little park. We
headed to Pittsburgh next and about 2 hours later were eating wings at
a bar (Red Beard's I think) right at the top of the hills to the south
of the city (right by where the incline goes).
I have to say, the first day of this trip was a bit much for me. After
all of this driving and having the ***beat out of me on the Blue
Streak and Flyer all day I was feeling pretty tired and beat up, and
wondering what i'd gotten myself into. This was gonna be a 2 night, 3
day trip and I was already sick of it. I love woodies, but after this
day I was actually dreading Kennywood and terrified of what those
coasters would do to me. I was, in the parlance of our times, getting
too old for this shit. Making things worse is the fact that apparently
there are no hotels anywhere near KW, which of course is a first for
me. After driving past a sobriety checkpoint and Kennywood, we finally
found a Holiday Inn about 5 miles and 20 minutes of mountain driving
away. The place was $130 and it was a disgusting smoking room. It was
2 am at this point and we were both miserable so we just sucked it up.
Emerged the next morning refreshed and we headed to KW. Got there
about 11. KW is pretty sweet, I have to admit, and it made the first
day worth it. Even crowded, I had a great time at this park. First up
was the Racer, about a 20 minute wait at this point. A fun, smooth
ride and the handslaps and "how the hell did we switch sides"
conundrum were a hoot. Was happy to be on a woodie that didn't assrape
me for a change it kinda got that whole fear out of my head.
After this we did the Thunderbolt. I really liked the ride - it was
wild, and had some air - but wasn't exactly blown away by what I had
heard was their signature coaster. Still a cool ride. About a 20
minute wait on this one until they finally put another train into
service - did a reride in about 10 minutes.
Labor Day weekend, noon and already huge crowds, I was pretty shocked
that they didn't already have 2 trains in service. But hey I'm used to
this shit at Compounce (owned by the KW people) so I wasn't surprised.
Probably my biggest pet peeve of the whole operation.
We did the Jackrabbit. This one instantly made my top 10, and top 5 by
the end of the visit. I just love this coaster. Smooth, the best
trains in woodie history (at least still working), and of course that
amazing double dip which is probably my favorite moment on any coaster
currently. I hadn't really heard anything about this ride so it was
all a huge surprise. Back seat is the best on this one.
Exterminator - another rough, stupid dark ride mouse which I will
never waste my time with again. Seems all these rides are good for are
people emerging from them saying "we waited 90 minutes for THAT?"
Also hit the Whip. Love whips, and this outdoor one was really cool.
By now our "VIP Coaster Tour" thingee finally kicked in, so we hit the
Skyrocket. Paid $18 for this which included all front seat rides.
Pretty cool, but I will say that in the end every single coaster at KW
is a "back seat" ride by a good margin so I next time I'll just save
the 3 bucks and get the regular one.
A word about their line jump system - basically, it's ridiculously
complicated and needs to be simplified. There seems to be at least a
half-dozen different options on this thing, along with single ride
passes, along with water park passes etc. It's way too much stuff, and
every single guest who comes to the booth spends 5 minutes asking
questions and trying to figure out what they want. And then, the
passes are printed to order slowly and inefficiently on a crappy old
486 computer and shitty printer. These passes are very hard so the
kids operating the rides had to wrestle with their hole punchers every
time we checked in to a ride - I never once saw this go smoothly. The
entire process is labor intensive, messy, and unnecessary, and leads
to long delays at the VIP booth. I HATE when a line jump system STARTS
with unnecessary delays, and this one is a textbook example.
We ended up buying the front seat tour, the night pass, and numerous
individual ride passes. In the end, we probably ended up spending
about 50 bucks, and walking around with about 5 of these hard
laminated passes at any given time. And, because ride times are
"assigned," you are constantly checking the clock and rifling through
your half dozen passes to make the whole thing work (though we did
find the ops were pretty loose on the timing stuff so that's good).
As for the system itself, I don't have any complaints. The front seat
thing worked out great, and you get pretty used to avoiding the
glaring from people you've just cut in front of. The other passes "any
seat but the front" also worked out great, as we always got back seat
rides and every ride in the park, that's the place to be. They were
fast and you basically just walked in the exit door and rode. Loved
Still, whittle that shit down. It would just be easier to have a once
per ride option at $20, and an all you can ride at $50 or $60, like
say, Busch Gardens. I seriously can't believe how overbaked the
current system is. They have day passes, night passes, front seat
passes, flat ride passes (I think?) waterpark pass, individual ride
passes...I'm sure I'm leaving some shit out too. It looked like a
snack bar menu with so much ***on it. Absolute buffonery.
Ok, back to the rides: Phantom's Revenge - another instant favorite. I
can't believe how good this ride is. A ton of air, that great first
drop, and the best 2nd drop in history, that screamer through the
Tbolt. Followed up by a nice tight turn around the Tumblebug and a
great tribute to the Jack Rabbit, a little double dip followed by more
airtime hills. I love this coaster and can't get enough of it.
Sadly, I DID get enough of it at one ride because the rain started.
I'm pretty sure from about 5pm on, the Phantom was closed all day.
Rain was pretty disruptive, but we did get a few more rides in on the
Jackrabbit, and also the Sky Rocket. This coaster was a huge surprise.
Another fantastic ride filled with crazy airtime. I felt like was
going to be thrown out of it on the corkscrews. Amazing to have a ride
like this with such simple lap bar restraints. It's a real winner.
A word about the guest relations at this park - they were freakin'
awesome. Having driven all this way and getting rained out a bit, we
ended up with only one ride on the Phantom and a bunch of unused line
jumps. The park worked with us and we came up with a great solution
that got us back into the park the next morning with a fistful of line
jumps. The plan had been to leave Pitt that night, but we ended up
coming back at 11 am and staying till 2pm to make up for it.
Management really went above and beyond and I can't say enough good
things about them. We got in about a half-dozen rides on the Phantom
and a few more on everything ...
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