The Keystone, Timbers, and Vengeance Tour - Part 8

Edited: September 10, 2018, 12:27 PM

To read the previous installment from Hersheypark, click here.

For the most part, this trip report has been fairly linear. However, following our time at Hersheypark, the schedule looked something like this:

-July 2nd: Morning at Hersheypark, afternoon at Dorney Park, drive to Philadelphia
-July 3rd: Morning and early afternoon exploring Philadelphia, late afternoon and evening at Morey's Piers
-July 4th: Full day in Philadelphia
-July 5th: Full day at Six Flags Great Adventure
-July 6th: Morning in Philadelphia, 3 P.M. flight home

In order to simplify things, I'll cover the two half-day parks here, all the Philadelphia stuff in the next report, and make the final report about Six Flags Great Adventure. So, without further ado...

The Keystone, Timbers, and Vengeance Tour
Part 8: Dorney Park & Morey's Piers

Following our morning at Hersheypark, we all got back into Joshua's car and made our way from Hershey, Pennsylvania over to Allentown. To me, the drive felt like two hours, though in reality it was probably under 90 minutes. Perhaps it was just because I wanted to get lunch, which we didn't stop for until arriving in Allentown (at which point we went to Moe's Southwest Grill, a quick-service Mexican restaurant similar to Chipotle but with less E-coli). Perhaps it was because I was anxious to get out of the car. Or perhaps it was simply because I knew what awaited at our destination for the afternoon.

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom

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I visited Dorney Park on a tour in 2014. My impression from that visit was that it was a decent local's park, but a completely unremarkable park for the traveling coaster enthusiast. I did not want to include it in this trip, as since my previous visit the park had lost more attractions than it had gained (and those gained were only a couple flat rides), but both Joshua and Douglas had never visited the park. Since we would be visiting for free with our Cedar Fair Platinum Passes, I consented to do a half day here en route to Philadelphia to both satisfy their curiosity and perhaps see if my original impressions were wrong. As it turns out, my original impressions were spot on, and their curiosity was satisfied within two hours.

I'm not going to go too much into detail about the rides at Dorney Park...you can see more thorough reviews in my previous report. Instead, I'll briefly go through how our day went and how Joshua and Douglas responded to the attractions.

-We started with the Wild Mouse simply so that non-credit counters Joshua and Douglas could get the credit. It's nothing to write home about, just a standard wild mouse with some surprisingly graphic cars (I wish I'd gotten a picture of those).

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-We next took a spin on the park's two B&M coasters: Talon and Hydra the Revenge. Talon is a middle tier invert, better than Hersheypark's Great Bear but not as good as Raptor or Banshee. Hydra is a middle-tier floorless, better than Cedar Point's Rougarou but not as good as most larger models. It does feature some unique elements for a B&M, however. It quickly became evident that these would be the best coasters in the park, and they were the only ones we re-rode.

-As we proceeded down the hill, Joshua's log flume enthusiasm took us to Thunder Creek Mountain. An incredibly bizarre log flume, this one starts at the bottom of the hill and has a lift to the top by Hydra. After a short course winding around under the ride, the attraction culminates with a very shallow drop leading to a larger than expected splash. Not the best log flume on the trip, but probably not the worst either.

-Joshua the old-school ride enthusiast next took us on Demon Drop, the last remaining first generation drop tower in the US. It's an interesting ride with a bit more of a drop than many modern towers, but a very clunky and awkward design that isn't particularly comfortable. Joshua likely could have ridden this several times, but Douglas and I were good with one go.

-Since Thunderhawk was nearby, we decided to hit that next. By group consensus, this was voted the worst wood coaster of the trip. While it wasn't overly rough (likely due to new trains purchased a couple years ago), it was quite uneventful and featured a fairly dull layout. The ride dates back to 1924, but unfortunately it doesn't ride much like the other classics on this trip.

-Joshua spotted the Road Rally car ride and wanted to ride. I decided to join him just for fun. Douglas took a spin on Bench: The Ride. It's hard to say who had the most exciting ride, as this short car ride simply went out to the end of Thunderhawk, then turned around and headed straight back.

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-Naturally, following the path next brought us to Steel Force, Dorney Park's hyper coaster. While it looks like a clone of Cedar Point's Magnum XL-200, Steel Force is actually designed by Morgan Manufacturing, who used computer aided design to smooth out the ride and create a less abrupt ride experience. Despite my insistence on the contrary, Douglas held out hope that the ride might be the sleeper hit of the park (Joshua already declared Demon Drop his favorite ride here). However, just as I remembered it, the ride featured perhaps a tiny hint of floater airtime over a single bunny hill. For a hyper coaster, it is a completely underwhelming ride...the world's largest mine train coaster. It was so gentle that it put Joshua to sleep judging by his on-ride photo. I want to think this ride was once great and that Cedar Fair has toned it down with increased trim brakes, but I don't know if that's true. It will be interesting to see how the other Morgan hypers fare, as I've got tentative plans to check out two of them next year.

-At this point, the blandness of Dorney Park was getting to everyone and we were about ready to go. I insisted on riding Possessed just for completeness, and Douglas opted to join me (Joshua doesn't do shuttle coasters). Sadly, even this ride has diminished...the holding brake on the back spike no longer works, making this inferior to all other impulse coasters.

With that, we opted to head out. Nobody had any interest in staying longer. On a trip filled with so many wonderful parks, Dorney was a total flop as predicted. I want to like the park, but after two underwhelming visits I'm not so sure it warrants a third chance even with the rumored new GCI.

Honestly, the problem with Dorney is not that it is a bad park. It isn't a good park, but it isn't a bad park either. The problem is that the park is very average in almost every way, and with a lack of investment from Cedar Fair there really isn't much indication of that changing anytime soon. Boring architecture completely devoid of theming, little atmosphere due to completely empty pathways in the middle of summer, and rides that are fun but nothing special make this a fine place to hang out for a few hours if you live in the area, but a waste of time if you're traveling more than an hour out of the way to visit. Now, the place does have what looks to be a very good waterpark, and judging by the crowds that is where Dorney makes their money. I just wish this park had more going for it...they've got potential, but aren't doing anything to tap into that.

Dorney Park Coaster Ranking:

B:

1. Talon x2
2. Hydra the Revenge x2
3. Steel Force

C:

4. Possessed
5. Thunderhawk

D:

6. Wild Mouse

From Dorney Park, it was just over an hour to our final hotel of the trip...a Microtel right near Philadelphia International Airport. With the 4th of July holiday coming up and with an itinerary including several activities outside of the city, we opted to save money and stay on the outskirts for half the price. The rooms were fine, while the rest of the hotel was a bit shabby. Without enough time to justify buying a train ticket to head into the city, we settled for dinner at a Ruby Tuesday just down the street before retiring for the night.

The next day, we got up early to take the train from Eastwick station into downtown Philadelphia. Our adventures there will be covered in the next report. For now, let's jump ahead to the afternoon when we returned from the city and piled into Joshua's car for a drive to the Jersey Shore.

Morey's Piers

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Among the many seaside towns that litter the Atlantic coast of New Jersey, by far the one with the most appeal to me is Wildwood. Located at the southern end of the state, the town itself is your typical beach town full of chintzy motels, overpriced parking lots, and an eclectic mix of tourist attractions. Naturally, we head straight for beachfront parking, then make our way up to the Wildwood Boardwalk, a nearly two mile stretch of tourist traps lining the edge of the sand. While commoners who are just at the beach for a fun day may be drawn to these attractions like a moth to a light, our group is a bit more discerning than that and has a specific goal in mind. Crossing the boardwalk while being certain to "Watch the tram car, please," we made our way onto the first of Morey's Piers.

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The largest amusement pier on the Jersey shore, Morey's Piers technically consists of three separate piers located a half mile apart along the boardwalk. In destination park terms, you could refer to this place as having three separate gates, and you'd be somewhat accurate. However, as all attractions are pay per ride and there are no actual gates to speak of, it's easier to think of them as a single amusement park with separate areas.

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Primarily due to convenience, we started our visit on Adventure Pier, the newest of the three piers. This pier is home to most of the attractions that would be upcharges at your typical thrill park, such as a Skycoaster, Skyscraper, and Spring Shot, as well as the incredibly bizarre Luna's Lost Labyrinth, an outdoor maze made of chain link fence likely found at a surplus construction supply store.

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However, Adventure Pier also held one of the top attractions at Morey's Piers...the Great White. A CCI wood coaster built directly on the beach, this ride rode almost like a proto-GhostRider. While not the most intense or smoothest wood coaster out there (or up to the caliber of Holiday World's CCIs), it still packed a bit of a punch and a moderate dosage of airtime. As the only ride at the piers we opted to ride twice, it's clear that this was a favorite among the group.

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With Adventure Pier tackled within 20 minutes, we moved down the boardwalk to Mariner's Pier. This is the largest of the three piers, featuring nearly thirty attractions and a decent-sized waterpark. We're drawn in by the mix of temporary carnie rides sitting side by side with permanent structures, but Joshua's attention is quickly drawn to an unusual ride in the back.

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Refer to the yellow track...the ship is for later.

Officially called the Flying Galleons, our group simply dubbed this attraction the "outdoor Peter Pan ride," which is the perfect description for it. Pirate ships seating three adults or four children each traverse a suspended track flying above and around the waterpark below. The ride moves at a leisurely pace, taking about seven minutes to complete the course, but it's a nice relaxing way to take in the sights of the area.

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For me, however, a bit more adrenaline is needed, so I lead the group over to Rollies Coaster. To this day, there are only a handful of coasters I've ever looked at and had the briefest bit of hesitation before climbing on board. This was one of those rides, a janky as (bleep) Pinfari Zyklon seemingly direct from the local carnival. The adventure begins when we climb into the tiny four person car and discover there are no seats, only a cushion mounted directly to the flat floor of the car. Once in place, the operator lowers oddly-shaped shoulder harnesses, checks to make sure that we're secure, asks if we're ready (we reply with a hesitant "Yes!"), then calls "Dispatch!" as they grab the back of the car and give it a shove. No drive tires needed, just the power of one ride op is sufficient to propel the car from the station to the base of the lift. From that point on, we spend the rest of the ride wondering at which point we're all going to die. Amazingly, we all survive unscathed. Even more amazingly, the ride is good enough to escape the bottom five coasters on the tour. It's not a good ride, just not as bad as we thought it would be.

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Feeling slightly disappointed at the lack of suckiness, I decided to rectify that with a ride on Sea Serpent, Morey's boomerang coaster. As my attempts to convert Joshua and Douglas to credit counters have failed, I'm left to ride solo on this one. This ride is actually one of the original boomerang coasters and the first in the US, dating all the way back to 1984. I prepare for the worst, but the ride actually isn't too bad. Truthfully, I like the layout of the boomerang coasters, but many of them are just uncomfortable rides. This one was a little rough, but I walked off with a neutral opinion of the coaster rather than a negative one.

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The coasters on this pier complete, we head to the one remaining attraction of interest on this pier: Pirates of the Wildwoods. If this sounds like a Pirates of the Caribbean rip-off, well...you're not exactly wrong. This is a small boat ride through scenes with the same trippy florescent 3D effect used in Garfield's Nightmare, but this time the entire ride is a parody of the Wildwood boardwalk. Scenes depict sights one would expect to see at the beach, punctuated by plywood cutouts of pirates leaping up to scare unsuspecting tourists. It is about as hokey as possible, and is only saved from the worst dark ride title by being "so bad it's good." As Morey's would not permit more than two adults per boat in order to make sure they don't sink, but at the same time would not allow single riders, Joshua won the privilege of riding twice so that Douglas and I could both experience this epicly bad attraction for ourselves.

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With the biggest attraction on Mariner's Pier not yet open for the day, we headed another half mile up the boardwalk to Surfside Pier. This is the original amusement pier at Morey's, and while it doesn't offer as many attractions as Mariner's it does have a more complete set.

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Our first stop on the pier is the Flitzer, a small carnival coaster that looks reminiscent of a miniature Space Mountain. Cars seating just one passenger each ascend a three story lift hill, then race through a series of turns with no real drops to speak of. It's not the most thrilling ride out there, but it was interesting to try out this rare model (according to RCDB, only two still operate in North America...both on the Jersey shore).

Behind the Flitzer stands the Doo Wopper, Morey's wild mouse coaster. While many mouse rides either have no theme or the generic cat and mouse theme, Morey's opted to instead theme this ride to a fast food restaurant (and, apparently, the coaster is sponsored by Burger King). The ride is complete with drive-thru signage and cardboard cutouts of food, but for some bizarre reason everything faces out toward the midway rather than toward riders. Some mouse coasters are better than others, and unfortunately this is not one of the better ones, but the quirky theme found here does help to set it apart a bit.

Continuing up the pier, our next ride was AtmosFEAR. A standard drop tower, Morey's tried to give this a bit of a theme with on-board audio. Surprisingly, it actually worked quite well. With a very slow climb and no pause at the top of the tower, the audio works to build suspense, then suddenly disaster happens and riders plummet. It was one of the better drop towers on this tour.

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As the big coaster on this pier was temporarily closed for mid-day inspections, we backtracked a bit to try out Dante's Dungeon. On the outside, this appeared to be little more than a standard carnival spook house. Inside, however, were a fair number of good scares and even a couple live actors. Award-winning it is not, but for a park like Morey's Piers it's an outstanding fit.

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By this point, Joshua the log flume enthusiast was getting a bit antsy, so we headed to the exact center of the pier to ride Zoom Phloom. Not only was this possibly the best ride at Morey's Piers, it may have even been the best log flume on the entire trip.

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A lengthy ride, the attraction spends several minutes winding above the pier below, then plunges down a full size drop into a tunnel beneath the boards. A short but clever dark ride section follows, with the song "Under the Boardwalk" playing in the background to perfectly complement this section of the attraction. Before long, it is time for a second lift, which leads to more aerial sightseeing and a second full size drop. This ride was a huge surprise, and proof that even a park wholly lacking in the theming department may have individual themed attractions that just nail a concept.

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By the time we finished, the coaster was back open, so it was time to Fly the Great Nor'Easter. A Vekoma SLC, thoughts of T3 immediately popped into our heads. However, T3 was the prototype, and the Great Nor'Easter received a 90% retracking and new generation Vekoma trains just a year prior. Cautiously optimistic, we stowed all our loose articles in a FREE locker (take note Cedar Point), then boarded the train and took off on the ride. Opinions on this varied: Joshua hated it, and complained that I tricked him into riding another SLC; I moderately enjoyed the ride (though not nearly as much as any B&M invert), and Douglas was fairly neutral on the whole thing. None of us deemed it re-ride worthy, so we all collected our belongings and headed back out to the rest of the pier.

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For the next hour, we did some random flat rides, the most notable of which is a flying scooters attraction themed to King Kong. Eventually, hunger started to creep in, so we went searching for the best frozen custard on the Wildwood Boardwalk, followed by the best pizza on the Wildwood Boardwalk. The frozen custard, obtained from a place called Kohr Bros, wasn't bad. The pizza, courtesy of Mack's, was quite good but not exceptional. The seagulls surrounding us while we dined at a bench were obnoxious.

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As night began to fall, we headed back out onto Mariner's Pier. Discovering that I had missed the new for 2018 Wild Whizzer junior coaster on my first pass, I immediately queued up for a ride. Douglas and Joshua instead opted for the Seagull Cycles and discovered just how much of a workout a true pedal-powered ride is. We took a ride on the Giant Wheel for the views, then it was time to experience the Ghost Ship.

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Almost everyone is familiar with the big theme park haunt events like Knott's Scary Farm or Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, which bring numerous temporary haunt attractions to the park. Some theme parks, however, feature year round haunt mazes. The Ghost Ship is one of these, and it is perhaps the most elaborate I've seen outside of the haunt event leaders. A pre-show sets the stage, then guests are sent into an abandoned shipwreck overrun by mutated zombies and other sorts of monsters. While the live actors aren't quite as numerous as I would have liked, this maze uses other sensory effects and even a few physical props to keep you on edge at all times. Add in the perfect setting and the 15 minute length, and you wind up with one of the best walk-through attractions I've done anywhere. Judging by the sheer terror in about half of those around us, this maze clearly does its job and does it well. Plus, unlike some installations, there are no chicken exits here...once you step aboard the ship, you're committed to journeying all the way through. Joshua was smart...he opted not to enter with Douglas and I, though refused to admit it was because he was scared (I'm pretty sure he was).

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With time running out on our parking space, we headed back for one final ride on the Great White before departing from Morey's Piers. It was a great evening at possibly the biggest surprise of the trip. Now, don't get me wrong...Morey's is not a top tier park with the best attractions ever built. Evaluated objectively, it is actually below average in most of the categories, comparing unfavorably to virtually every other park on the trip in almost every category. However, objectivity can't capture the feel of a park, and the atmosphere of Morey's is unmatched by many of the corporate giants. When DCA was built, if they were to literally copy one of Morey's piers and drop that in the middle of Paradise Bay, they would have a better representation of a seaside park than Paradise Pier ever was (and perhaps make DCA 1.0 worth visiting for more than two rides). Despite the limited number of quality attractions, I enjoyed my time at Morey's Piers far more than Dorney Park, Kentucky Kingdom, and perhaps even Hersheypark. It is somewhat like Kennywood...you won't get the greatest rides, but you'll get a great experience. It's not somewhere everyone can appreciate, but it is well worth checking out if you find yourself in the area.

Morey's Piers Coaster Ranking:

B:

1. Great White

C:

2. Fly the Great Nor'Easter

D:

3. Rollies Coaster
4. Sea Serpent
5. Flitzer
6. Doo Wopper

Next Time: Two days of sightseeing in the city of brotherly love

For more content, check out Douglas's trip reports from Dorney Park and Morey's Piers.

Replies (4)

September 10, 2018, 11:24 AM

I find it unfortunate that writers for TPI seem to have little interest in meeting other writers. You guys were at Dorney - just up the road from me - and in Philly, where I live. In my case I suspect that this is due in large part to writing about theme parks being a good ol' boys' club - and the good ol' boys would like to keep it that way. (It's one of the reasons I write roller coaster reviews; almost all those who review coasters are men and I'm trying to change that.) One exception is that I almost hooked up with another writer at Cedar Point but my flight got cancelled and he couldn't make it the following week when the flight was rescheduled.

In any case, your points about Dorney are well taken although I like the park a lot more than you do. One of the things I especially like about it is that with the exception of Talon, the coasters are almost invariably walk-ons. One of the things I don't like is that their policy prohibits consecutive riding. I once managed 10 consecutive rides on a coaster (El Toro) at Great Adventure but Dorney won't allow you to stay on even if there's no-one in the loading station.

I find Steel Force superior to Magnum - which isn't saying much - and enjoy riding it. The helix is wonderful and the bunny hills at the end offer some decent airtime. Agreed that Talon is better than Great Bear; in fact I write coaster showdowns for another blog and did one on Talon v. Great Bear; Talon came out ahead. Talon is underrated in my opinion. On my last visit it was down for some time and almost incredibly, I waited 45 minutes to ride that dreadful Wild Mouse b/c from the ride queue I could keep an eye on what was happening with Talon (which did resume operation). I like Talon more than Raptor but less than Banshee; having finally ridden Banshee in April, I find that it surpasses all inverts with the possible exception of Nemesis. Banshee actually offers a more thrilling ride than Nemesis but Nemesis offers much better scenery. Hydra is OK but can't compete with something like Superman Krypton Coaster. As to Possessed, it really is unfortunate about the holding brake not working. Until two months ago this was the only impulse coaster I'd ridden but now that I've ridden Wicked Twister I would have to say that it falls short. Thunderhawk is indeed pretty dull but has a sentimental value for me because back in 1963, when I was 12 years old and Thunderhawk was known only as The Coaster, I rode it with my Aunt Agnes who was crippled with polio and wore a leg brace but loved roller coasters.

Sadly true that Dorney is losing more attractions than it's gaining and Cedar Fair is not investing enough money in this park. I miss Stinger b/c of the face-off seats and HangTime was actually a very good top spin ride.

September 10, 2018, 2:52 PM

Bobbie, I wish I'd known you were interested in meeting up with us, because I would totally have tried to make that happen. I always post details of my upcoming theme park trips on my Facebook page and love meeting up with those local to the parks. Sadly, TPI doesn't have a messaging system like a lot of other forums, so it is difficult to contact other members unless they've got social media linked on their profile. If I remember, I'll try to get in touch with you the next time I do an East Coast trip (won't be 2019...maybe 2020).

I think I would enjoy Dorney a lot more if I had it as a local park rather than one I've traveled to. It is the sort of place that is great if you just want to get out for a day and ride some roller coasters. However, when mixed in with numerous other parks on a longer trip, it doesn't stack up. The park simply lacks anything travel-worthy, and while Talon is underrated it still falls short of the top rides in its class (I have it ranked 6/15 on my invert list). I can also see preferring Steel Force to Magnum, as it is a lot smoother, a little longer, and a bit more interesting. I'd say it's probably the most re-rideable coaster at the park since B&M's can get to you eventually. Perhaps it runs better with a full train...we only had about ten on ours.

Hopefully Cedar Fair will start investing in Dorney in the near future. It's in an excellent location and could easily be a popular park, they just need to get more than one big ride per decade.

September 11, 2018, 12:00 PM

AJ, it used to be that one could send a message to any TPI writer by email but Robert stopped that because, I think, there was a problem with people getting spammed. You and I aren't FB friends so there's no way I would have known about your upcoming theme park trips.

Yes, Dorney is fine for me b/c it's a local park and as you say, a good place to go if you just want to get out for a day and ride some coasters. So is Great Adventure a local park but Dorney is the place to go when I'm not in the mood for long lines - especially long lines to get through the metal detectors. Dorney is somewhat deceptive in that the parking lot is often pretty full but the coasters are still walk-ons - and that's mainly b/c many if not most go there for the water park.

Wish I could get to the California parks but it's a long trek and an expensive Uber fare, as I don't think that any of the parks are less than an hour away from airports, regardless of whether I fly into LAX or John Wayne. I'm fascinated by the rides at Magic Mountain but have heard an awful lot of negative things about that park.

September 11, 2018, 4:29 PM

Actually, So Cal isn't as hard to do without a car as you might think. Disneyland is less than 15 miles away from John Wayne Airport and usually around a 30 minute drive (sometimes less if traffic is good), then there are cheap buses that run from the Disneyland Resort area up to Knott's Berry Farm. USH is pretty easy to get to using LA's public transportation, you'd just need to take a train into LA. Same with SWSD if you wanted to include that. SFMM is the one that is a bit tough to get to without a car or expensive Uber, but it can be done...it just takes time (and most of the negatives about that park are a bit overblown...it's not the best park ever, but it's far from the worst and still better than most Six Flags properties). If you ever decide to make the trip out here, feel free to hit me up and I'll help you out with planning.

For some reason, I thought I had posted about this trip on TPI, but I think it was just the initial survey. You don't have to be my friend to see trip announcements on my Facebook, though you do have to go look at the page. Perhaps I should advertise next summer's trip on here once I figure out exactly what that will be.

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