Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
I did something yesterday I haven't done at GAdv this year, and rarely do at parks anymore: went open-close. Between my advancing age and health issues, it's just not something a can make myself do often. However, it's easier when I'm with people whose company I enjoy and who share my enthusiasm for these machines we love.
This "report," like most I write, will be somewhat anectotal rather than chronological, as it's not easy to re-construct the entire day in my mind (I'll do the best I can, though.)
I made excellent time getting to the park, even though I always take secondary roads to avoid the high tolls in Jersey. Even with a gas stop and Wawa for gum and iced tea, I was waiting at the appointed spot by 9:20. I met up with my friends from another forum, Jen and Paul, and another fellow from said forum, Kyle, whom I had not met before.
Next to arrive was Kyle up from South Jersey. First time meeting him (although he's said in the past that he'd seen me and Jen in the park.) Kyle seems like a pretty cool guy. After some small talk, Jen arrived, followed in short order by Paul, following his long drive from Maryland. We headed in, and I had to take off my darn belt again at security. Before rope drop, Jen and Paul tagged along with Kyle and I as we dropped our medication at First Aid. Following rope drop, we headed in the general direction of the pathway to the Golden Kingdom, as we had already seen Kingda Ka testing. But somehow or other, we followed Paul's lead and ended up at Green Lantern(stand-up, formerly Chang at Kentucky Kingdom.) I can't remember if that was a front seat ride, but it was the best of the season. No ear-boxing at all. Paul and Kyle poached a second ride. As Jen and I headed down the stairs, I had a sudden impulse to ride the Parachute Drop. I didn't realize Jen had never been on it, and I hadn't in three years. We were gonna ride together, but the op asked if we weighed more than 400 pounds combined. I replied, "I don't think so." I may not be the brightest crayon in the Crayola box, but I certainly am not gonna ask a woman (Jen, here) how much she weighs, add it to mine, then answer the operator. So we sat down together, but then I was asked to move to another chute. So we rode separately. Awesome view of Nitro is the best I can say, but it's a unique ride, soon, I understand , to be one-of-a-kind in the States. I told the operator of that fact, and could tell he was genuinely interested to find that out.
It was already getting hot. Temps were predicted to be around 83 with a chance of thunderstorms (which never materialized) However, it was humid, and I imagine the heat index was pretty high.
We headed into Ka's queue, but it was already in the switchbacks, so we passed and headed for El Toro. Got consecutive rides, although we did walk around. A bit sluggish on the turnaround, but it ran well. Visually, something new. The Stride Gum train has been gone this season, and there was no advertising on the train..until now. One of the trains has been overlaid with a red billboard job advertising the Kia Soul vehicle. There are new frames around the seats at about shoulder level that feature the word "Soul" and "Kia Motors" across the back. There's even "wheels" painted above the actual wheels. I don't like it, particularly, but it's better than the gum train. And later on, waiting for a second set of rides at night, it dawned on me...the "Soul Train!" Love, peace, and Toro! Where's Don Cornelius when we need him?
An okay turn on Rolling Thunder (old wood, sometimes racing) was followed by two consecutive rides on Bizarro (floorless.) Ride felt great, and if the audio was fully on prior to the brake run (where it definitely was) then I didn't notice it. Hit the Runaway Mine Train for a lap, but I was annoyed by the fact the back car (all three seats) was for Flash Pass only. Jen ended up being our conductor.
Little blurry from here. We got only one ride on Nitro (B7M hyper,) although I'm sure Kyle got more when he split from our group after lunch. Batman (invert) had some issues, with a shutdown just when we were boarding. Jen had put our cups in the holders and we were just sitting town when they moved us back to the air gate. Four or five mechanics were checking the trains, and after one of them took a test ride, we got the all-clear and got two consecutive rides. Funny moment: we came off Batman, and Paul headed toward Dark Knight (Mouse-in-a-box,) appearing as if he expected us to follow him like the rats with the Pied Piper. Needless to say, that didn't happen.
We had lunch at the Character Cafe, after finding out that that restaurant, along with Granny's, was offering a "Season Pass Appreciation" discount of 20% off an order of $10 or more. I think we all got some form of a burger. Mine was actually not bad at all, save for two of the mot pathetic excuses for strips of bacon I've ever seen.
And then there were three. Kyle split after lunch, and I think that's when Jen, Paul and I hit Kingda Ka with a somewhat minimal wait of around a half hour. The ride was running consistently all day (more on that later) Jen managed to poach a re-ride (with permission.) She was very happy to see that her on-ride photo did not feature my hand in front of her lovely face, as it usually is in photos when we sit together, no matter the ride.
Paul was jonesing for Skull Mountain(indoor,) but Jen and I saw the line and walked out, telling Paul we were gonna hit the new bumper cars, which have opened. It was about a four cycle wait. We were really hoping Paul would not be out before we were, thereby giving him an I-Told-You-So opportunity. No such luck, he beat us. It was worth it, though, because the bumper cars..Fender Bender, to be accurate..had some really good action, far better than in their last incarnation at the park. The Jen went for a smoke while Paul rode Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train (family coaster) and I took a spin on Air Jumbo, the re-located Flying Elephant ride. Although I was unable to make my elephant fly due to an inoperable control lever, I thought it was neat how the vehicle has holes an adult can stick their feet into, making it appear your legs end at the ankle, and making it quite comfortable if riding without a kid. We temporarily couldn't find Paul after that, but we did.
Let's see, what else? Checked Nitro..too long (we had not gotten the Flash Pass.) Paul and I took another ride on Lantern, and I decided to join hm at the back to give it a shot. Hey, I'll never learn. Interesting note..after the OTSR was down, I was having trouble reaching the belt below the seat to buckle in. I finally did, just moments before dispatch. Good thing I did, because NOBODY EVER CHECKED MY RESTRAINT!! I mentioned it to the op and got nothing more than a puzzled look. I was gonna go to Guest Services and report it, but decided it wasn't worth the bother.
We got another ride on KK as the sun was setting. The wait was closer to an hour this time, and while waiting, i was feeling a bit "off"..a little out of sorts, if you will. Not sick or anything, just...off. I hadn't realized when boarding that Jen and Paul had gotten on the train ahead of mine. I was sitting on the launch pad for about 4 minutes, and it turns out they were stuck on the holding brake at the same time. Don't know what the issue was.
We got a night ride on Toro..pretty awesome, although night rides on Toro don't hold a special place in my heart like those on Beast, Lightning Racer, and Boulder Dash. Paul wanted a ride on Bizarro, while Jen and I elected one more on Toro. We planned to meet at Nitro for our last ride. But dark forces, walks of shame, and Platinum Pass double riders conspired to make us wait longer for Toro than the line promised, and when we reached Nitro at 9:59(after a very exhausting, power walk across the park) they had just put up the chain closing the line. Not knowing exactly where Paul was on the line, Jen and I headed out. I do regret not getting to say goodbye to Paul, but he'll understand. He's a good guy.
One other note. Obviously, we didn't go to the Pat Benatar concert. I heard music from that general direction, so I guess the concert went on. But at one point, from somewhere, Jen pointed to the arena while the concert should have been going on..and the arena appeared to be mostly empty. Maybe Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will do better next week.
Thanks for reading, as always. And, also as always, we wish you love, peace, and SOUL (Train!)
It beckons all who pass.
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort