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AirBear's 2016 Winter & Spring Review Thing

Posted: 8/22/16 at 1:47:19 PM
Views: 1406

Hello URC, it’s been a while :-)

I figure I’m overdue to post something, so I thought I’d summarize some highlights from our winter and spring 2016 travels. We’ll follow that up with another post covering our summer adventures. But first, a little personal catching-up (feel free to skip the next paragraph).

Last year I completed the handling of my parent’s estate after they passed away in 2014. Being burned-out from that as well as the caregiving before their passing, I made the decision to retire from full-time work. As of this year, I’m only work a day or two a week (and loving it). This will allow more time for travel, at least if medical stuff would get out of the way (February knee surgery for Colleen, and more recently leg vein ablation for me). But enough of that … on to the amusement park stuff.

The first week of January we drove down to SoCal to visit some old college friends. We also hit Disneyland and California Adventure, spending a full day in each park. We wanted to see Disneyland one last time before all the Star Wars construction, and had a great day of minimal to moderate waits. We were able to do pretty much everything, even getting Colleen her first ever ride on Dumbo the Flying Elephant. We got many repeat rides on favorites like the Matterhorn Bobsleds (my very first coaster), Space Mountain, Big Thunder, and Indiana Jones. We capped off the night with a triple treat. We staked out a spot in the plaza in front of Cinderella’s Castle, first watching the Paint the Night Parade (very nice, like an updated Main Street Electrical Parade), then sticking around for the fireworks show (never had the awesome view from right smack in front of the castle before). Then we topped it off with a front-row spot right on the edge of Rivers of America for the late Fantasmic show (reserved as part of a dinner package). Seeing the parade, fireworks, and Fantasmic back-to-back-to-back was a great way to wrap up the day!

Day 2 at California Adventure got off to wet start with torrential rains hitting SoCal that let up later in the day. We were prepared with full rainsuits, so we stayed nice and dry. We started off with several rides on Toy Story Midway Mania, then went around the park getting 0-5 minute waits on everything but Radiator Springs Racers, which was having issues with the weather (we got stuck right at the beginning of the ride on one rainy shutdown, but finally got our full rides in later that day and loved it). We saw the Aladdin show one last time before it gets replaced by Frozen, and got many rides in on Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (good thing too with the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy makeover). We also had a fantastic lunch at the Carthay Circle Restaurant (a bit pricey, but highly recommended), and saw 2 different World of Color shows (one holiday, one 60th anniversary). It was a great visit to the Disney parks.

After Colleen rehabbed from her knee surgery, we planned a late April trip for the ACE SpringCon in the Carolinas. The event started with a very hot Friday at Family Kingdom in Myrtle Beach. Swamp Fox was running well, and we had ERT sessions on it both at park opening and after closing. The next morning it was on to Charlotte to meet my nephew for a nice 3-hour lunch at his favorite brewpub, the Flying Saucer. By the time we got to Carowinds late Saturday afternoon, thunderstorms were threatening and then hit with a vengeance during dinner. Everyone hunkered down in the picnic pavilions, but ultimately ERT was cancelled Saturday night. Sunday morning came with scattered storms still in the area, so ERT was late to start but we did manage to get a few Fury 325 rides in. We fell in love with this B&M last year, and it continues to be an awesome ride (I love its placement at the main entrance). After ERT, we did a lap around the park getting rides on most of the other coasters as well as enjoying a group lunch back at the picnic pavilion (now much drier than last night). We then left to drive to Pigeon Forge for Monday’s add-on day at Dollywood.

The weather was hot in Pigeon Forge Monday, but the hot new ride was not cooperating. No rides on Lightning Rod for us, but we did get a station tour and brief talk. We enjoyed a leisurely day at Dollywood riding the other coasters like Wild Eagle, Fire Chaser Express, and Tennessee Tornado until late afternoon when those pesky thunderstorms cranked up again. Everything shut down for a while, but during a brief break we managed to get a Steam Train ride with only a dozen or so patrons on board. At closing time, we bought a loaf of that wonderful cinnamon bread for later and headed to Thunderhead for ERT. But the skies opened up again, forcing ERT indoors on Blazing Fury. No complaints here as we enjoyed regular rides, light-on rides, and totally light-off rides. A nice way for the park to make the best of the crazy weather.

A couple weeks after the SpringCon, we took a mid-May trip down to Universal Studios Hollywood to see their new Harry Potter area. Colleen brought an old friend who was really into Harry Potter stuff, but as it turns out not so into the rides. Still, she gamely tried all the attractions once. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride in Hollywood is similar to the one in Orlando but with 3D, which didn’t add to the experience for me (mind you, 3D glasses don’t usually fit quite right over my prescription glasses). Still, it’s a great ride and a nice addition to Universal Hollywood. The rest of the Harry Potter area is similar if a bit smaller than in Islands of Adventure, with an Ollivander’s Wand Shop and other storefronts. What was interesting is that in certain places, we saw people take their purchased wands and move them in a very precise pattern to make things “magically” move in the storefronts. Very clever, and sure to sell even more wands than ever. We ate at 3 Broomsticks, and found the food and beer quite tasty (real beer mind you, not that butterbeer stuff). Other rides of note at Universal were the Transformers 3D ride (similar to Spiderman in Orlando), the Mummy coaster (not as good as Orlando’s), and the Jurassic Park River Adventure (getting us nicely wet, but not soaked). Unfortunately, the new Walking Dead attraction was still a month from opening.

On the Wednesday before Memorial Weekend, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom had a VIP preview of the Joker coaster (Rocky Mountain conversion of Roar). We were lucky enough to snag an invite, and delighted to find a full-blown event with beer and wine, lots of great food (hot appetizers, sandwiches, wraps, and other goodies), a live band, grand-opening ceremony, and of course, lots of rides on Joker. The “new” coaster is a very enjoyable ride, with a good amount of airtime moments and a delicious bit of “hangtime”. I’ll miss Roar, but it was getting a bit rough and, quite frankly, paled in comparison to CGA’s Gold Striker. Overall, a good move by Discovery Kingdom.

So that covers the first part of 2016. Stay tuned for some summer stuff, including a NAPHA event (Alabama Splash Adventure, Lake Winnie, Dollywood), ACE Preservation Con (Lagoon), and Flying High with a Blue Streak (Conneaut and Waldameer this weekend).

Rick W - AirBear

Re: AirBear's 2016 Winter & Spring Review Thing by frontrow frontrow Profile at 8/22/16 6:28:52 PM
Awesome report. I actually have never been to California, but my kids have visited Southern California twice with my mother in law and been to most parks in Southern California. I am waiting for Lightning Rod to run consistently. Hopefully going down to Dollywood in September. I can't wait to read your next report.
Re: AirBear's 2016 Winter & Spring Review Thing by RobLec RobLec Profile at 8/23/16 10:42:19 AM
It's great to hear from you again, Rick, though we're sorry to hear about the leg issues... though it is pretty much a fact of life as we age. I trust that convalescence went well for both you and for Colleen. I read your review together with Laurie and we are both relieved that you are now semi-retired and the family matters are finally in the past. We both officially retired last fall and spent the winter in Florida, returned to Ohio for the summer to put our house on the market and are now back in Florida again. I'll send you an email regarding what's new with us as far as our health matters and such.

We often talk about what good times we've had with you two, most recently Thunderbird and the water rides at HW last year. Dollywood seems like it was a decade ago (come to think of it, it almost has been that long!) We did USF practically every year to hit the new attractions there, and I suppose there is some comfort in hearing that the Orlando attractions seem to out class those in Hollywood. Laurie - forever the kid at heart, did buy a wand in Hogsmeade and used it to activate many of those magical features throughout Diagon Alley... otherwise it was just another bulky item we had to stow when riding rides.

We have been so busy with our move that we haven't had much time for parks this year. We spent a lot of time with Mike B at KI's Coasterstock this past spring and though we hoped to do Carowinds to catch Fury that never happened. Real Life keeps getting in the way... but I'm hoping that we may get together with you again some time, while we're still young :)

Re: AirBear's 2016 Winter & Spring Review Thing by beastmaster beastmaster Profile at 8/24/16 3:41:19 PM
Hey, Rob....can you shoot me an e-mail at sonbeast1964@yahoo so I can get your e-ddress?
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist...
Re: AirBear's 2016 Winter & Spring Review Thing by AirBear AirBear Profile at 8/25/16 10:43:41 AM
Thanks for the replies.

Frontrow, southern California will always be special to me as I spent my first 8 years living down there (hence many childhood visits to Disneyland and Knott's). The rest of my life has been up in northern Cal (SF Bay Area). While we have nice parks, they are very different from the parks to our south. And no more Dollywood for us this year - I wouldn't want to chance a strike three for Lightning Rod :-)

Rob, my leg issues weren't too serious (just a feeling of tiredness / soreness that wouldn't go away). But my doctor wanted to be proactive and not let the situation get worse. All seems to be fine now. I still have your email, so we'll be in touch. Colleen and I would love to get together with you and Laurie again. Who knows, we're due for a trip to Florida as we haven't been down there since December 2010.


Re: AirBear's 2016 Winter & Spring Review Thing by MABrider MABrider Profile at 9/1/16 5:19:43 PM
Good to see your post.
Just a quick note to say HI to you and Colleen.

I do note what you wrote re life changes, etc...but always prefer to talk about such stuff in person.

A real quick update from here re said life changes.
Liz is retired. Came up quick in late spring. Her high pressure job which she always handled well suddenly became a chore. She was diagnosed with Lupus, or symptoms thereof. She is on some meds, monitoring going on, dosages changing, etc.

Hasn't kept her from normal life, and she is somewhat on the rebound. Doesn't mean she will accompany me to parks "everywhere" tho. She still says "go!" LOL

I will still be getting "out there," as always.
Hope to see you and Colleen before too long!

Mike B.
Re: AirBear's 2016 Winter & Spring Review Thing by AirBear AirBear Profile at 9/2/16 1:04:29 AM

Congrats to Liz on her retirement, but sorry to hear of her medical issues. Unfortunately it seems to come all too often for those of our "experience".

Glad to hear you're still getting "out there". We hope to see you before too long as well, so we can catch up properly in person. Perhaps we'll cross paths in the phall :-)

Take care,