SFGradv TR 4/4/09 Very Long
I figured I would just go ahead and tell you this is going to be a long one right from the get-go.
Now let me preface this, I love Great Adventure. They have an awesome coaster collection and the ride ops remind me a lot of how we used to work at Busch. So, despite what I am about to say, I AM NOT THROWING GRADV UNDER THE BUS!!!!!! or hating, or being a sourpuss negative coaster enthusiast, etc. I'm just reporting my day and how I felt about it.
I got to the park at about quarter to 10:00. I was supposed to meet Mike (aka Beastmaster) at some point during the day. I felt sure we would run into each other, so the only concrete plans we made was that he would wear his bright orange Mets shirt and I would wear my Redskins Band Jacket. (potentially dangerous attire choices in the NJ/Philly market, but we would be able to easily identify each other.) Turned out we wound up meeting in the parking lot as he unknowingly drove in right behind me. We had agreed to go our separate ways in the morning; he to get his El Toro fix for the year and me to "break the bottle" on the back of Nitro. We got let in the park at 10:00, but the ropes didn't drop until 10:30. No problem, I can deal with the fact that I thought the rides opened at 10:00. There were maybe 30 cars in the parking lot when I showed up and it was cold and VERY windy. I was sure the crowds would be sparse.
Now let me reemphasize, it was VERY windy. There were high wind warning all over I95 going up the Susquehenna Bridge and at the Delaware Memorial Bridge. My car was blowing all over the place and it is only a 4 door Chevy Malibu. It was obvious that KK was not going to run in this weather, but it was not listed as closed on the ride board out front. No problem, I myself knew that coming in. We all know why Medusa was not running after her freak "accident". Another case of knowing the situation before coming in. I decided to go to bathroom when I discovered that there was going to be a rope drop at 10:30. Blackbeard's Treasure Train was being tested by maintenance. I was not paying attention going into the bathroom, but it seems as if it made it around the course just fine (based on all the "roaring" you could hear echoing through the stalls). I came out and saw the train go up the lift, then the most curious thing happened. It went up the lift, but just as the engine portion crested, it seemed as if power was cut and it was allowed to roll back down the lift into the waiting station brakes. I turned around to assess if I had saw what I thought I had and maintenance did it again. I watched them do this 3 or 4 times before just blowing it off as "they are just testing the station brakes in case of a rollback", like they did on Hypersonic and I presume other launchers. If I had thought about it, I would have said that something is not right about that, because why would maintenance need to test such a thing so close to opening? They are just the same station brakes that stop the ride during regular operation. Needless to say, Blackbeard never opened for the day.
Now back to the rope drop. Before the ropes dropped, Gradv put on the character show at the fountain. 1st Batman and Robin came out, then Bugs and Tweety and finally... Mr Six. Sure we all knew it, but you wouldn't believe how many people actually left the rope to see our bow-tied friend do his thing to "the Six Flags Song" as my students know it. (I assume it has a real name, but who cares what it is.) So Mr. Snyder, I guess maybe the old management had something right after all, ha, ha! Before they dropped the ropes, security announced that anyone caught running or smoking in a non-designated smoking area would be removed from the park. So when they dropped the ropes, every one started to move in an orderly manner... for around 5 seconds. Once 1 teen bolted through the crowd, around 10 or 12 followed and our nice orderly procession became the usual theme park bedlam. I seriously doubt any of them got kicked out of the park. I really think CP has the right idea of opening the park early and allowing people to queue up for rides before opening the lines at 10:00. I hate it since I can usually outwalk anybody not running, but it sure is safer. It doesn't matter because all those kids got was some much needed exercise (more on that later).
Since the crowd was not that big, I figured I could take a little detour to knock out Dark Pawn (or my new name, Dark Krap) and still get a plenty walk-on rides on Nitro. I went to DK and was the 1st person in line. (it was about 3 minutes before anyone came to join me). 2 were coaster enthusiasts with Boulderdash jackets on (ironically the exact same color as my Redskin jacket) and two other random guys followed them later. We went right to the pre show and they waited another 4 or 5 minutes before deciding to just go ahead and start it since no one else was coming. We could hear the ride cycling as the pre show is not very loud without a full room.
So after the annoying too long show, we enter the boarding area to find the ride shut down. They decided they needed 2 more "trains" (that's what the ride op told us). Now, I'm no expert, but seeing how there is next to no one in the park at this point, it is cold and VERY windy outside, and you only have 5 people in the line at this point, what did they see that required SOMEONE, whether it be a ride supervisor, ride lead, gate attendant, whoever, to say "Quick, add two more cars right now!" So we are waiting there for another 20 mins while they add and cycle the new cars.
Finally, we get on. I take the back seat, the Boulderdash couple take the front. We head out, things are going as usually for a wild mouse. It appears they added some scenes to the upper level. I can't be sure because I only rode the thing 1 time too many last year. Then, those of you familiar with Mack Mouse layouts, on the last section of brakes before the swoop turn separating the top and 2nd levels, the car comes to a stop. We are in between a building scene and someone with some sort of ray gun. I was like "it didn't do that last year". I thought we might get some automated show like Italian Job, but no, nothing happened. 20-30 seconds later, we proceed through the course as usual, until the final set of brakes before the turn to the station. The cars are clearly stacked so we stop then the car behind us comes to a halt.
Then it happens. The cascade from setting up Mouse cars stops cars in various positions along the course. Unfortunately, I couldn't see from our position where they all got stopped, but once the lights came on, it was clear that we were shut down. So I guess 5 or 10 minutes later, an op comes by and asks us if we are okay and tells us the ride is shut down, blah, blah, the usual. We couldn't really have any conversation with him as every 60 seconds, the "welcome back please be prepared to exit" spiel would come on as we were right under the speaker. He did ask us how we liked the ride and the two in the car behind loudly exclaimed "it sucked!". They need to start putting it in the ride op SOP that they should NEVER ASK PEOPLE HOW THEY LIKE DK. It never turn out well, lol.
So, I don't know how long we sat there, but I could see people out on the catwalks, so it was obvious to me before it was to him that they were not going to get the ride started. He went to go find out for himself then came back and told us, they were getting us out. Now, I am not sure about this, but do other Mouses have evacuation platforms on the brake run? It seems like a HUGE oversight to build scaffolding to all the block brakes, but have no such scaffolding on the brake run, which is the most obvious place a car would be stranded. Next time I am at Kings Dominion I am going to check Ricochet to see.
Nonetheless, we are the last ones to get released as they had to get a 10 ft Home Depot-style ladder to get us out of the clutches of the Evil Dark Knight. One op (seemed dressed like a supervisor) had the long wrench-like release to pop the restraints and our jolly friend who came to check on us was down on the ground to help us down the ladder. So once he get us out, he asks some one named "Kristin", "do I take them back to the station?" No response. He asks again, no response again, so he just take us to a door that leads to the outside and that is it. No exit passes, nothing. I was chuckling about the whole ordeal. I mean, I know it is the 1st ride of the day, but even if he wasn't properly trained in evacuations, someone would have said, bring them back to the station or have them wait here until one of gets them, or something. The guy was clueless, which I don't blame on him. I blame the supervisors for that.
So we all decided to head to Batman (in our discussion with the ride op, we learned that both Nitro and El Toro were down) More on that, too. The line was in the station only, so we get in line, me in the back, them in row 3 or 4 then all of a sudden, the jolly guy from DK appears up the fastpass entrance and tells me, "I need your friends to come back to the ride with me, now." I figured it was to get our exit passes, so I grabbed them for him (it was obvious he ran all the way over there after us, so he was winded). We went back out the fastpass entrance back to DK (the couple was pretty pissed that he didn't let us ride 1st since the line was only around 2 trains long. It's funny they said it probably looked like we had been kicked off the ride to everyone else, lol.) He tried to take us back through the doors he brought us out of, but of course, they were locked from the outside, so he take us back through the queue, pre show, and station area (I bet everyone thought we had some really special fastpasses as we got an escort past all of them, ROTFLMAO)
The ride was still down, but we had to fill out this Ride Evacuation Report (I guess so we couldn't sue) and we got our exit passes. The supervisor guy said he would walk us back to Batman so we would not have to wait. The exit passes were good for any ride except El Toro and KK. Spectacular. Needless to say, I still have mine (more on that later, too.)
We get walked back to Batman, up the exit ramp and to the current handicap boarding area where the board op asks them to hold the gates (it's the dispatch op on the back loading side who controls the gates) and of course, he doesn't hear him. So I knowing he was going to stick us in row 4 or somewhere in the middle, quickly ask him to go to the back row in a waiting empty seat. No one answered, so I jumped for it. The Boulderdash couple followed suit in row 3 or 4 with 2 open seats. So I got my ride on Batman. Kinda sluggish due to the cold weather, but same experience.
Now, about Nitro. Remember, I said that the jolly DK op said that Nitro was down. I decided to sneak a peek over at Nitro while on the Batman course and noticed that the station was completely empty and there was only one train on the station/brake run. As lazy as Gradv has gotten about running full capacity, even they would not open with just 1 train for Nitro. So when I get off Batman, I scan the lift for the train. Nothing. I go around to Nitro, scan the entire brake run. Nothing, but the one train in the station. I go around the back side of the station, check the maintenance shed. Nothing. I look go all the way to the fast pass entrance, check the block brake. Hard to see from the ground, but nothing. An op, standing there noticed me looking all around the area and asks me "you trying to see where it stopped?" I said, "yes". She pointed out in the woods towards the hammerhead and said, "somewhere out there." I said "REALLY, it valleyed?!?!". I'm sure my eyes got as huge a saucers at that. She said, "a gust of wind blew when it was going along and it got stuck out there. I asked, "were there people on it?", getting ready to shoot myself for going to DK 1st. It would have been way cooler to be stuck out in the woods on Nitro that in that stupid Mouse-in-a-box. She said, "No, they were getting ready to load the other train, when that one didn't come back.
Oops, mom is calling. I'll finish this later.
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Interesting trip report so far, man that totally sucks getting stuck on DK, but at least you got those passes. But lol, on top of that Nitro and El Toro were down? Man that must be the worst day to go to the park.
And I agree with you, getting stuck in the woods would be way cooler than in a box.
What an awful day to visit a park!
I would have never gone if I knew it was gonna be that nasty out. I always check the weather before I go driving to any park.
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Thanks guys. I'll finish now. It still gets better.
After learning of Nitro's unfortunate demise (by the way for any of you planning to ride Nitro this week, don't plan on it until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.) The op told me it would be down all week, but I figure it will take them at least all day Sunday/Monday to reassemble the train after they finish taking it off Sunday then spend Tuesday testing the ride again. They may run it Monday with only 1 train, but unless the weather gets better, I doubt they will chance it.
June, it's interesting you should mention checking the weather. You don't really think I was stupid enough to travel 230 miles for a 1 day trip without checking the weather, do you? I checked the National Weather Service EVERYDAY last week for weather updates as they are never accurate until the day before. Last one said "partly sunny, hi's in the 60's, low of 49," if I recall correctly. Nothing about high winds, not that high winds would have made me cancel my trip. I knew that KK would probably not run, I didn't think Nitro would get screwed by the wind. Why would Great Adventure cycle the trains empty (ie, without water dummies) in such cold and high winds? Even I know that they need to have the weight in that weather. I bet you they didn't turn off the trim brakes and the combination of that and a well-placed blast of wind caught the train in the hammerhead and blew it back out of it. Like I said, I'm not throwing Gradv under the bus, but it was a pretty bone-headed move nonetheless.
So no Nitro, off to Skull Mountain. No problem getting on the ride as there was absolutely no line at the time, but that quickly changed. Of interest, when I rode I noticed that the entire layout was lit, then the "lights" would go out. Then it would be lit again, then go out. It was not someone playing with the switch, but it kept happening, seemingly in a pattern as we dropped down the 1st drop, entered the final helix, then stopped on the brake run. I finally took the back row on my 2nd or 3rd ride (there was a significant line for the front and back.) and noticed as we sat on the brake run that there was a light in the top of the building. Suddenly it shut off. I looked more closely and it turned out to be a door that was opening and closing in the high winds. SOMEONE FORGOT TO LATCH THE DOOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now granted, no one was going to climb Skull Mountain to try to access that door, even if they wanted to, I doubt it was in an area that was easily accessible to anyone. But I'm sure having that door open while the ride is open is some kind of safety violation and I'm sure someone will/did get written up for it if management saw it. The door was opening closing all day, so whoever did it may have got off scott-free.
After Skull Mountain, I went to Scream Machine. Nothing to report there other than the trims were open after the 1st loop (expected), but the block was still bringing the trains to a complete stop before the boomerang, so it was crawling through the inversion. I've had worse Scream Machine rides, so I won't complain.
I ran into Mike again after riding Screamer and he told me El Toro was down when he went there 1st thing in the morning. We decided to go check it out. Sure enough the ride has just opened and the line was very short (1st switchback.) We noticed it was taking a while between trains when we got close enough to the station, we could see that the train went out, but no train came in after. 1 train operation, oh boy! So Mike and I opt to wait for the back, which had a full, overflowed queue. I never like the back on Intamins, I feel they are engineered to be "front seat" rides, but I went along anyway (I mean, at this point, what else was there to ride?)
We take our ride. 1st drop is good, rest are Intamin's typical rampy drops that thrust you up, but do not give any float. Surprisingly, the "money shot" into Rolling Thunder's infield was pretty weak, giving very little pop at all. Guess the cold was taking it's toll on the bull as it just lumbered back to station after completing the 90's. The other train was on the transfer with the water dummies still on board. I'm sure management, after the Nitro debacle decided to shelve El Toro until the weather warmed up. Can't explain the 1 train operation. I doubt Gradv would pull an SFA and have only 1 train prepared ON PURPOSE for one of their most popular rides. At one point, they did shut down while we were waiting and backed the train out of the station so maintenance could look at the underside of the train. (Mike and I thought maybe they were going to add the 2nd train, but no luck. They didn't see anything since they promptly loaded the train without cycling it 1st.
On to Rolling Thunder which was running 2 trains on the right side track. Lots of potholes at the bottoms of drops, squealing on the turns, no airtime on the return run hills, the rib cracker on the final station turn is still in place. A typical RT run in every way.
We go check out Medusa (I'll call it Bizarro when I see there is a reason to call it that. The track appears completely painted, there was no visual changes other than a huge hole being dug inside the helix after the block brake. It was clear it has just been started, which is sad considering it was a particuarily mild winter this year. Kings Island can erect a $26 million hyper and open it close to park opening and Gradv needs until Memorial day to paint an existing coaster and add a flamethrower and fog machine?!?! Unacceptable and GP is pissed about it, too. There was plenty of grumbling in the El Toro line anytime someone brought it up. I think Shapiro's plan to sell revamped attractions as new will bite him in the rear in this time with Medusa and Super SFNE. We'll see on Memorial Day.
Runaway Train was a walkon, and one of the few rides to be running 2 trains. Nothing new here. I took some pictures/video of El Toro in action for my next Hotwheels project (since both Medusa and Nitro were down, I'll do El Toro by default). Log Flume was cycling, but not open yet. Mike was willing to take a ride despite the bitter cold wind, I passed.
We take a walk out the car. Mike catches some hell from a Pittsburgh fan over his Mets shirt (I can't believe I didn't cross paths with any Eagles or Giants fans looking to pick a fight all day). We come back and have lunch then off to test stomach muscles with my traditional Scream Machine marathon. Last year, I did 36 times without getting off since I said I would stay until someone came to get my seat. It never happened until I finally walked away at 36. This year, I had to cut is short because Superman was down when we went there and I wanted to save some time as soon as it went back up. I made it to 10 on Screamer before I saw them letting people into the queue so I hightailed it over there.
Rumor has it that Super shut down on the lift, so they had to do a lift evac. I never accept things until I see them and when we went, there was no evidence of a train or evac equipment used, so I can't say one way or the other. What was apparent is that Mike said they had 2 trains going in the morning, but it was only one when I got my ride. Now let me preface this...I love Beemers. Now, I HATE the Supermen flyers. I won't say B&M flyers as maybe Tatsu and Manta have more exciting layouts, but after the pretzel loop, the rest of the Superman layout is totally forgettable. A curve here, a turn there, one slow barrel roll and that is it. For once, Vekoma kicks B&M's butt with the Flying Dutchmen.
After I rode Superman, Mike came back and we waited together 30 mins for Super. I could have used my exit pass, but I didn't want to leave my buddy cold, so I waited it out.
I thought Batman, being the only decent coaster on the other side of the park open would have a pretty sizable line like the old days. Well, after the not-so-Super ride, Mike and I split ways again so he could take his chances on 1 train El Toro, while I went to try to use my Exit pass on Batman (and ride a decent Beemer.) Turns out other than the front row, the REAL Dark Knight was a walk on, so I caught 4 rides with out having to leave (5th one drew a full train, so I was out.) I went to Skull Mountain just to see if they closed that door yet. The answer was no. I went to Rolling Thunder only to get some pictures of El Toro's finish (it's the only area to see the final progression of twists and turns for my model.) I saw Mike twice while on RT, once getting off ET while I was going up the lift and once going down the 1st drop while we going up. (that bright orange shirt helped:) I tried to get his attention but with no avail. I finally went to ET to get my final ride in row 2-1. Air was good on the outbound run, but still lacking the insane thrust that you normally get dropping into RT's infield.
Despite the incompetence and just plain bad timing, I still had a great day at Gradv. I hope that no one thinks otherwise. Would I have still gone if I had know Nitro would be a no show in addition to El Toro being a 1 train nightmare and KK being absent as usual? Sure!! I only get to make the drive up to Gradv 2 times a year and having most everything as a walk-on only occurs on my spring visit.
Oh, one more story. When Mike decided to take a spin on Top Spin, I passed as I don't do spinning rides. He left me to watch his hat, glasses, and drink he bought for lunch. Well, as par for the day, Top Spin went down as well while they were locking the restraints. Meanwhile, a huge wind came through and blew Mike's hat and glasses into his drink cup, spilling it over the midway. I tried to save what he had left, but the wind kept blowing everything away. The supervisor, I assume in the area because of Top Spin going down, saw me trying to keep Mike's cup and hat from blowing away and asked me if I would like another drink. I said sure and he took the cup down to the drink stand and refilled it to the brim with orange soda, gratis. So Mike got a soda for his shut down and all I got was a worthless exit pass. Ironic, but a good end to this tale of opening day woe:)
Thanks for reading and hope everyone has better luck later this week.
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man, that sounds like a major bummer seeing how so many rides were down. I do hope your next trip is better.
I guess I should be grateful last July that only El Toro was down and I got to ride pretty much everything.
And agreed, that's just sad that the Medusa 'update' still isn't done. I hope the park isn't cutting back too much on maintainence. All those screw ups in one day? Just pathetic.
Hi this is one of the guys that were in line with you at Great Adventure on opening day at the Dark Night when it broke down..Yes I am the guy who said it sucked...What a day that was and most certainly my worst experiance ever at an amusement park..I enjoyed reading your trip report and will look forward to others shortly..I am glad you made the most of it on such a bad day..I will never attend another park on such a windy day if I can avoid it since all the coasters were closed because of it..I will be making a second trip to Great Adventure this coming weekend and the weather is looking good so I don't see how it can be any worse than opening day!!
It was so coinidental that I read your trip report because I never really used this site before.There are a few other sites I follow but I just wanted to check something different out.Me and my friend were the other two guys that were in line with you for The Dark Knight.It's funny because we were trying to figure out if you were with the Boulder Dash people....lol....So we were the ones that were yelling that the ride sucked!!I knew that before I went on it but my friend wanted to try it at this park since we tried it at SF in Chicago last year.He was hoping it would be better but they are all the same.What a waste of millions of dollars.They took out a pretty good coaster for that crappy mouse ride!! We were also picking on the boulder Dash couple for wanting that credit that bad.I yelled "Was that worth your Credit"...lol...Getting down the ladder was more fun than the ride!!!I am looking forward to more of your posts.Highly entertaining!!!!....Dion
Hey Glenn and Dion,
Glad you guys liked the TR. It's funny the way it all worked out. I felt like I could run in there and ride DK and be over to Nitro before the station cleared out from the morning rush (funny how quickly it really did clear out after the train got lost in the woods, lol!) I still have that stupid exit pass since there was no ride that had a line other than El Toro (and the #$%#@* thing wasn't good for it!) Glad you guys had a better view. We couldn't hear anything because of that stupid speil on the speaker every 30 secs. Just added insult to injury.
By the way, the Boulderdash crew did count the ride as their credit. Pretty rotten one at that. Did you guys stop on the course before the final brake run, too? I figure the stupid ops started loading us before they got the cars sufficiently spaced and with the 2 extra cars (why did they thing the 10 of us in line needed 2 extra cars? WHY?!?!?), it just cascaded the thing to the point they couldn't restart it without another set-up.
Thanks again and maybe we'll run into each other again later this season (I won't be going back to Gradv until Bizarro is up and running.)
Sorry about the weather on your trip Paul. Rember, the summer seasons "X-factor" is that most rides are open, and esp. up North hardly anything closes due to weather as the weather is usually nice already, and no shortened lists of operating rides. The only way I'll go on a park trip early is if I'm in FL, CA, or indoors.
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> Sorry about the weather on your trip Paul. Rember, the
> summer seasons "X-factor" is that most rides are
> open, and esp. up North hardly anything closes due to
> weather as the weather is usually nice already, and no
> shortened lists of operating rides. The only way I'll go on
> a park trip early is if I'm in FL, CA, or indoors.
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Thanks, Chris. No need to be sorry for me. I hate crowds and take weather gambles in order to avoid them. If it wasn't for the wind, it would have been a perfect day. The crowds were non-existant. The Kingda Ka crew was poised and ready to open the ride if the weather permitted (must have been 15 to 20 of them in the station while I was riding Scream Machine). Nitro would have been a walk-on within 10 minutes of opening seeing how few people were waiting to go over there for the morning run.
I've gone to opening day at Gradv for 4 of the last 5 years and had the best time of ANY park I have been to. This year sounds like a bad day, but if Nitro hadn't valleyed, it would have been perfect. (I even would have had something to use my exit pass on).
In my game of "weather" roulette, I hit 00 this time. I would still take a cold day in April over a hot day in July or August at that park. No contest!!!!