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Kennywood/Cedar Point Trip Report 9/15-16 (Part One)

A post-birthday weekend at two of my favorite parks.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted September 18, 2012 at 4:54 PM
First off, I'll say that always expected, but undetermined-in-advance health issue started a week before I left. Once or twice a year, I develop an ear infection that causes my ears to close up, though not all at the same time. So, with my partial deafness already in place, it's not a pleasant experience. There's no pain, but it's very uncomfortable and makes it even MORE difficult than usual to communicate. It started in my left ear, which is the "better" of the two for my normal hearing. On Thursday the 13th, the blockage switched to the right, meaning that my "better" ear was mostly clear. I knew I was gonna go, though, and took off Friday morning for my Brother's in Sharon, PA. Ran into some construction on Rt. 80 in the Poconos, and again about 25 miles from Sharon. Had a really good lunch at Ponderosa in DuBois, PA.

Whenever I take an amusement park jaunt, be it long or short, I always have at least one or two (usually more) what I call "Oh S***!" moments. Those are moments, both good and bad, that can really throw a monkey wrench into your plans and leave a sour taste in your mouth..or..on the flip side..make you realize it was worth the effort and bring a smile to your face. Examples of the former would be a dead car battery, a favorite ride being closed, losing your wallet. Examples of the latter would be getting a prime parking space, seeing no crowds, or scratching a winning lottery ticket.

So before I start the report proper, I'll give you the "Oh S***!" moments.

The BAD Oh S***! Moments:

1. Realizing, about 45 minutes after leaving Kennywood, that I had left my insulin and needles at First Aid.

2. Walking into Waffle House Sunday morning en route to Ohio, removing my glasses to read a flyer, putting them back on, and realizing my entire field of vision was blurry (remember, diabetes can affect your eyes.) When I took the glasses off after sitting at a booth, my vision was what it normally is without the specs. Then I realized it..the right lens had popped out. Retracing my steps, I found it under the flyer, and fortunately, no one had stepped on it.

3. Driving through Ohio after breakfast Sunday, I suddenly had this insane thought, which deserves all capital letters: I SPENT OVER NINE HOURS AT KENNYWOOD AND COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT NOAH'S ARK. I never even SAW the darn thing.

4. Until this weekend, I had only taken two Walks Of Shame due to the inability to secure myself into a ride vehicle. Unfortunately, that number has now doubled. Due to my flab, I was unable to buckle into and ride either Top Thrill Dragster OR Wicked Twister at Cedar Point.

I'll get to the GOOD "Oh S***!" moments soon.

Some ramp closures made it a bit difficult getting to Kennywood Saturday morning, but I got there. Was to meet up a fellow by name of Ken, from another forum I participate in, and most of his family. The meet-up was easy, they were already at the spot. We had 5 people..me, Ken, and his daughter and two boys. It's an odd number, but we mostly made it work on the rides. His youngest didn't ride everyhing, and we rode in various combinations. I dropped off my insulin and we headed to Sky Rocket, the park's most recent coaster addition.

I wasn't expecting much based on what I'd read here and elsewhere. Seeing it in person, the layout looked tame, like a Zamperla Moto-Coaster with the color scheme of Bowcraft Playland's Crossbow here in Jersey. And the top hat looked tame. We got on line, waited for it to open, and I rode front solo. Well, looks can be deceiving. I enjoyed the ride. Despite being heavily braked at two spots, including while cresting the first hill, I got a lot of airtime. The launch is pleasantly mild, nowhwere near as rough as it's larger brethren in Jersey and Sandusky. The whole ride was smooth, and the lap-bar restraint very comfy. I hoped for another ride later in the back, but that didn't happen. I was having a sugar drop, so grabbed a Mountain Dew.

We followed that with bumper cars, among the lamest I've been on. But next door to the bumper cars was what I was really looking forward to..the Bayern Kurve. It's a flat ride with a longtrain of individual bobsled cars that simply goes around a mostly circular track. Until my rides on it in 2009, I hadn't been on one in at least 30 years. This was the only ride I rode twice this day. I don't know how fast it goes, but it FEELS like 75mph. Getting tossed like a rag doll and smiling throughout was one of the GOOD "Oh S***!" moments.

Moved onto Exterminator, an indoor spinning, well-themed Mouse.. Rode with Ken, while the kids took their own car. Still my favorite indoor coaster, the ride Dark Knight wants to be when it grows up. No wait.

I think we hit Black Widow next. Ken and Hunter (his youngest) sat this one out. It's what I guess is a Giant Frisbee, but appears to swing much higher than MaxAir, Delirium, et al. It was quite dis-orienting, and I loved it.

Waited a while for Phantom's Revenge. The park was beginning to get crowded, and they put on the second train while we waited. I rode by myself here. That second drop is still one of the most amazing "Oh S***!" moments in all of coasterdom as it goes through the structure of the wooden Thunderbolt.

I did get a ride later on the Lil' Phantom, the kiddie version. I actually waited quite a bit for that...it's a two cycle ride. The reason I rode it was because they actually have a sign stating that there's no maximum height requirement for the ride. It was nothing special, though. My companions passed on that, and Haley (Ken's daughter) rode the nearby kiddie drop tower (frog hopper.) I was joking with her about her being too big for the kiddie rides, but she gave as good as she got, ifyaknowhattimean.

We walked out of the park to Long John Silvers for lunch. I loved being able to walk such a short distance for a meal I like.

As mentioned, the park had gotten pretty crowded..based on what Ken said, it was more than usual. We did the woods through the afternoon, only getting one ride on each after 30-40 minute waits. All of Kennywoods wooden coasters date back to the earlier part of the 20th century, but they're impeccably maintained. Racer left me un-impressed. Thunderbolt is the best wood in the park, but Jack Rabbit has the single best wood moment at Kennywood...the insane airtime jolt on the double-dip. We did some other flats..Aero 360 offered a shorter cycle than Dorney's Meteor, The Cosmic Chaos Disk-O was fun, and we got a little bit of a splash on the flume. I had another sugar drop on line for Cosmic Chaos, so I found a nice treat the boys (and Haley, at the end) helped me put away..a bowl of Dole Pineapple soft-serve ice cream. It was around 8pm, but they hadn't made a closing time announcement yet. Sky Rocket had just re-opened after being down. I would have loved a back seat ride, but the line was very long. Ken and his brood were getting up early the next morning to head to Hershey. I had a 1.5 hour drive to Sharon and wanted to get out early Sunday heading for the Buckeye State. So we decided to call it a night about 8:15. I know there's other stuff I coulda touched on, but that's what I got for now. Considering the crowds, we did pretty good, and Ken and his kids are a cool bunch. I still don't know how I missed Noah's Ark.....

For those reading who have never been to Kennywood or other traditional non-themed amusement parks, please don't deprive yourself of the chance. When done right (Kennywood, Knoebels, Lake Compounce,) they strike a balance between modern and classic rides you won't find at Disney/Universal, Busch, etc. Yes, those places have rides that are classics in their own right. But there's a certain vibe you get at the older parks (Kennywood is one of two parks included in the National Register Of Historic Places) That you just don't find elsewhere. You may not like them..they're not for everyone's taste. But if you profess to love amusement parks, you owe it to yourself to try one or more.

Next Up: Cedar Point Sunday! Stay tooned!


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Rob Pastor
Posted September 18, 2012 at 6:07 PM
Mike: Excellent report. Many TPI readers will never get a chance to experience an old time park like Kennywood. But when Walt was building Disneyland it had many similar dark ride attractions that would find their way into Walt's park in altered states. Kennywood dates from the turn of the last century and is one of the longest surviving parks. It's small, maybe apx. 35 acres of actual park, but it's loaded with good attractions and is impeccably landscaped. Three historic wood coasters and three steel. Plus, 80% of their parking is free.

From Tim Hillman
Posted September 18, 2012 at 7:34 PM
Mike, I couldn't agree more. I had a blast there a few years backs, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their coasters as well as many of their flat rides. Kennywood is one of the most pleasant non-themed parks I've been to.

BTW. I'm a Waffle House fan too. Back in my single days it was a Saturday morning ritual for my son and I to have breakfast at the "Awful House" as he called it.

From James Rao
Posted September 18, 2012 at 7:35 PM
Awful House is right, Tim. But I digress...

Hey Mike, sorry to hear you missed Noah's Ark, it is on my bucket list of attractions to visit. What about Ghostwood Estate? It looks like an old school Haunted Mansion type ride.... did you catch it?

From Rob Pastor
Posted September 18, 2012 at 7:40 PM
James: Ghostwood is a shooter that has a beginning that mimics the Haunted Mansion. The shooter portion of the ride is entertaining, but it isn't in the class of Men In Black, Toy Story, or even Buzz Light Year. But it's themed quite well and has some nice Haunted Mansion type effects to shoot at.

From Carrie Hood
Posted September 18, 2012 at 7:40 PM
Hey Mike,
Wish I'd have known you where in my neck of the woods, I haven't gone up the Kennywood yet this year since we've been invading everything else lately!

From James Rao
Posted September 18, 2012 at 8:25 PM
Sounds sweet, Rob! One day....

From Rob Pastor
Posted September 18, 2012 at 9:26 PM
From your bucket list....Noah's Ark is an excellent dark attraction. It's the last of its' kind and was renovated & expanded a few years ago. If it was in Fantasyland, in the Magic Kingdom, it would probably have 1 hr. plus lines.

From Rob Pastor
Posted September 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Mike; Did you try the Potatoe Patch fries? They're an amusement park best. And the Belgian Waffles are excellent also.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted September 21, 2012 at 6:18 AM
No, Rob, I didn't. Been there, done that, don't see what all the fuss is about. I tried them on my first visit back in 2000(?..whatever was Steel Phantom's last year)..and wasn't impressed. Had no desire to have them again. Blasphemy to fans and regulars visitors of Kennywood, I know..but, well...

From Rob Pastor
Posted September 21, 2012 at 7:26 AM
Mike: Steel Phantom's last year was 2000. Then they modified the ride, since it was really too tough for many riders, and it became the Phantom's Revenge, opening the next year in 2001. The first runnings of the Phantom reached 85-90 mph. Lots of complaints from customers resulted in a lowering of the speed to 75-80 mph. Yes, that drop down the wooded ravine to the Monongahela River(actually the second ride drop) and through the wooden Thunderbolt coaster, has to be one of the most thrilling coaster sensations in existence....As an aside, the land where the park sits is where General Braddock (French & Indian War) crossed the river and met the slaughter of his army on the opposite bank. What was left of the army retreated back across the river through the Kennywood area and fled the entire distance to Ft. Necessity near the Pa./West Virginia border.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted September 21, 2012 at 8:18 AM
Yeah, that was what I thought. I had read about Phantom and went there for the first time, not knowing (obviously) that I'd never ride it in that form again. I enjoyed the ride in both incarnations, more so as Revenge.

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