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AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary

Posted: 9/23/16 at 12:00:32 AM
Views: 1521

Hello again, URC :-)

Forgive the silly wordplay in the subject, but this retired guy has been working 3-4 days a week the past month. And according to the calendar summer is officially over now, so let’s continue on with a review of our 2016 so far. Let’s see, where were we …

Fridays from mid-June through early July found us at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, enjoying the first 4 Friday Night Concerts on the Beach (Lou Gramm, Blue Oyster Cult, The Tubes, and Family Stone). Of course, some rides were had on a couple of those visits (with Giant Dipper running great as always, and enjoying rides on the Haunted Castle, Ghost Blasters, and other favorites). In early July I also had my first 2 leg vein ablation procedures, which went well enough for my doctor to clear me to go on our late July trip. Good thing, since the trip had been booked for a month and a half.

We started by flying SFO-ATL on the 27th to do an event with NAPHA at Alabama Splash Adventure, Lake Winnie, and Dollywood. First up Thursday was Alabama Splash Adventure, where we enjoyed a raucous 90 minute ERT on Rampage. With only 20 people in attendance, we had all the rides we could handle in our choice of seats. Let me tell you, Pat Koch and her crew have worked their magic on Rampage because that woodie is once again running like a champ. Smooth tracking, great laterals, and plenty of airtime! After that awesome ERT it was time for lunch, and we were fortunate enough to have Pat sit at our table and chat for a while. It was good to talk with Pat, yet felt a bit strange seeing her outside of Indiana for the first time. As for the rest of the park, Rampage and the waterpark is about it for adults because the rest of the rides are geared for the kiddies.

Next up was a Friday morning visit to the Coolidge Park Carousel in Chattanooga. We enjoyed a talk by the carver who helped restore this beautiful carousel, then enjoyed a few rides. After that it was on to Lake Winnie, which gave us dinner and a talk with the park’s owner. After dinner, we enjoyed the park’s dark ride, carousel, sky ride, and wild mouse. Then the evening wrapped up with ERT on the woodie Cannonball Run, which was running nicely. On Saturday morning we were back at Lake Winnie for ERT on the Boat Chute, which is such a fun and historic ride. We also got lunch, before heading on to Pigeon Forge.

The weekend wrapped up with our second visit of the year to Dollywood, and of course you can guess that we were shut out of Lightning Rod again (oh well, maybe next year). It was still a great visit though. We started off Saturday afternoon with Dolly’s new Lumberjack Adventure dinner show (the food was tasty and plentiful, and the show entertaining). It’s conveniently located near The Island entertainment complex, so before the show we enjoyed some free moonshine tasting at Ole Smoky (yee haw). After Lumberjack Adventure, it was on to the park to finish up with a great nighttime ERT on Wild Eagle. We were back in the morning for ERT on Thunderhead. Again, you could take your choice of seats and ride to your hearts content on these sessions (and we did). We also got a tour of the Dreammore Resort, which is absolutely gorgeous of course. The rest of Sunday was spent alternating between rides and shows. On Monday, it was back to Atlanta for our flight to Salt Lake City for the ACE Preservation Con.

We spent a few days in the Salt Lake area doing attractions like the Heber Valley Historic Railroad (a scenic and relaxing 3-hour train ride) and the Timpanogos Cave Tour (with a not-so-relaxing hike to the entrance that gains 1100 feet elevation in a mile and a half – still well worth it). Then it was time for the Preservation Conference at Lagoon Amusement Park. With 180 in attendance ERT wasn’t quite a ride fest like the NAPHA event, but the park ran multiple coasters for each of the 3 sessions so waits were short. Friday morning ERT included Wicked, Roller Coaster, and the Carousel. The Sunday morning session was on Cannibal, Jet Star 2, and Rocket. And Sunday night’s “bonus” ERT included Cannibal, Spider, and Colossus the Fire Dragon. Lagoon also offered guided park tours, which focused on the park’s history and changes through the years. And of course, the park provided 2 bountiful buffet meals, 2 continental breakfasts, and a late-night snack.

We love this park for its eclectic line-up of coasters, nice mix of flats, and the historic pioneer village section (they also have a waterpark section which we have not done). It’s grown over the course of our 3 visits – 5 coasters in 1999, 7 coasters in 2005, and 10 coasters now. In addition to the 1921 John Miller classic Roller Coaster (pretty good now but incredible back in 1999), how can you go wrong with classic Schwarzkopf’s like Jet Star 2 and Colossus the Fire Dragon? Add some fun coasters like the family-sized Bombora, the launched Wicked, and the Spider spinning coaster and you have a pretty decent line-up. But Lagoon’s latest addition, the in-house designed Cannibal, really raises the bar. The theming is wonderful including a waterfall, lots of statuary, artwork, and decor, and a cannibal’s black cauldron for the control booth in the station. And the ride is crazy yet smooth, with its beyond vertical 116 degree drop and insane hangtime-filled inversions (I love the one called the Lagoon roll right before the ending helix). That was a great Sunday night ERT session!

In addition to our time at Lagoon Friday and Sunday, we were also treated to an enjoyable Saturday morning tour of the S&S Sansei facility in Logan, and then had the remainder of Saturday free. Many attendees went off to ride the area’s mountain coasters, but Colleen and I (and a few others as it turned out) headed to Promontory Point to see a re-enactment of the transcontinental railroad’s Golden Spike ceremony. Really nicely done, with a couple of beautifully-restored steam trains from the era.

So that was our big trip for the summer, but we weren’t quite done just yet. With the help of a cheap nonstop from SFO to CVG, we decided to visit a couple of relatives in Hamilton OH as well as drive up to northwest PA for the Flying High with a Blue Streak event at Conneaut Lake and Waldemeer. This long weekend started with a redeye flight arriving in Cincinnati at 6am Friday. Knowing we’d only get a couple hours sleep and had a long drive to Erie, we decided on something relaxing to break it up and took an enjoyable 3-hour ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad that afternoon. Then it was on to our hotel in Erie. We’ll just skip over the power outage problems at the hotel since we were asleep or away at Conneaut for most of it (lost power Friday night, came back on Saturday morning for a half hour, then went out again until midnight).

Saturday morning found us driving to Conneaut Lake, a park that seems to cling by a thread sometimes. With their history of fires, it’s a wonder it’s still here. We sadly noted that since our only other visit in 2003, the Dreamland Ballroom (2008) and Beach Club (2013) had burned down. On the plus side, the waterpark drew a decent crowd which spilled over into the dry park that evening. We enjoyed a leisurely day, interspersing rides with breaks for a refreshing microbrew (they had a stand with local Voodoo Brewery selections on tap). Lines were short, and we ended up riding every single adult ride they had, most many times. The park also provided a spaghetti dinner for attendees, and the night wrapped up with ERT on Blue Streak, Devils’ Den, and Tumble Bug. Blue Streak was running quite well except for one nasty jolt early in the ride, which in some rows was downright chiropractic (we heard it developed during the season and will be addressed in the off season). So we rotated around and got plenty of rides on Devil’s Den and Tumble Bug as well.

Sunday found us at Waldameer, where we were amazed at how much it has grown since we last visited in 2003. The waterpark is quite large and looking to expand some more, and new rides have been squeezed in elsewhere around the park (like a coaster named Ravine Flyer II that I’ve been waiting to ride for far too long now). But our day started with ERT on the junior woodie Comet (running ever so smoothly), followed by the spinning coaster Steel Dragon. We also got a couple quick rides on Whacky Shack before it developed a line, then it was time for lunch (hamburgers, hot dogs, and ox roast). After lunch, we were treated to a photo walk across the road to Ravine Flyer’s far turnaround (it’s looking better and better to me).

Once back from the photo walk, we could wait no longer and got in line for a couple of warm-up rides on Ravine Flyer (next to last row, then second row). And what a great ride it is – fast yet smooth, with good airtime and laterals. We were really looking forward to ERT on it later. After a break to have a couple beers and chat with fellow attendees, we spent the rest of our time doing other rides like X-Scream (drop tower), Thunder River (log flume), Pirates Cove (walk-through), Sea Dragon (nice high swinging on this), the L Ruth Express train, and the Sky Ride. Then 10pm rolled around, and it was time to head back to Ravine Flyer II for more rides.

We climbed into the second to last row expecting another good ride like we had that afternoon, but Ravine Flyer turned it up a few notches. The laterals were now tossing us around like rag dolls, and the airtime was much more abundant and forceful than earlier. What was fast during daylight now seemed balls-out blazing in total darkness. The coaster literally took our breath away! After trying a couple of hands-up rides, I decided the smart thing was to just hung on for dear life the rest of the time. We rode all over the train, including the very front and back rows, and there really isn’t a bad seat. But the front row is incredible, and the back row just flat-out insanity! Ravine Flyer took 5th place in the Golden Tickets, and it is well-deserved. This coaster is great anytime, but just mind-blowing at night. At the end of ERT we said thank-you to the park staff, and reluctant good-byes to fellow attendees, and headed off to the hotel to recover from an incredible day. We ended our trip by visiting a couple relatives in Hamilton OH before flying home.

So that wraps up our summer, but we’re not done yet. We’ll be hitting some of our local parks (Gilroy Gardens and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom for sure), and hopefully get down to Knott’s Berry Farm to try the refurbished Ghostrider. And we have another big trip in October that will involve National Parks as well as amusement parks. We’ll be flying to the east coast and driving into central PA for a visit with a family friend in Altoona, and a much-awaited return to Phoenix Phall Phunfest at Knoebels (last visit was 2011). After that, we’ll fly to Las Vegas and drive into southern Utah for visits to Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon (north rim). Then it’s back into Las Vegas for some dining, drinking, and shows. It should be another great trip.

Rick W - AirBear

Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by frontrow frontrow Profile at 9/23/16 10:57:23 AM
Great report. We just did a Lake Winnie/ Dollywood trip less than two weeks ago. We actually did get to ride Lightning Rod 14 times and it has become my new favorite coaster. We wanted to make Alabama's Adventure part it that trip, but it had already closed for the year. I still have never been there. Our visit to Lake Winnie was our first ever and I really enjoyed Cannonball.

I never have been to Lagoon, but it's very high on my bucket list. We live in Southwest PA so we visit Waldameer about every other year. I totally agree about RVII. Great ride during the day, exceptional at night. Probably my favorite coaster to ride at night.

Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by RobLec RobLec Profile at 9/23/16 11:37:39 AM
Wow, great read Rick. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. As I mentioned in Frontrow's Dollywood thread, I've had to be content getting my coaster thrills reading others' TR's (except the occasional outing to CP/KI or WDW/USF.

Thunderhead... what a great woodie, and DW is a great park. And reading your blow by blow report of your rides on RFII was breathtaking. Truly one of the best coasters on the planet.

We (Laurie and I) were fortunate that among our very last road trips, we visited Waldameer in 2010 with ERT on RFII with our older son Jeff, then SDC in 2011 and our last visit to DW in 2013.

It's great that you and Colleen have been able to visit so many smaller parks... and we are all fortunate that so many have been able to thrive and prosper recently after it was looking as though they would all die out just about ten years ago, for some of the reasons you mentioned... fire, skyrocketing insurance, as well as gov't restrictions and the biggie, dwindling attendance.

I hope your fall trip goes well also. Thanks again!

Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by MABrider MABrider Profile at 9/23/16 5:42:27 PM
Wow, the AirBears sure do get around (to me you two are as one in coasterdom, LOL).
Makes me happy to know of your travels.

Great report. From a great memory (I can't relate).

As to RFII, yes, a tremendous ride (as is Waldameer a really nice park). It's one place Liz and I spent time together.
But not on coasters...oh wait, she did ride Comet...so not 100% coaster-phobic is she. Grain of salt there...

Those Golden Ticket awards...Boulder Dash #1? Hah! Not this year. I figure most voters relied on memories from 2015 or prior. RFII deserves a higher position. By two or three slots.

Anyway, this was a real nice read, Rick. Both for the facts you recalled nicely (jealous!) and to know you and Colleen were "out there" a lot.

Hope to see you before too long. (PPP? I don't really expect so, you've been traversing this land so much already this year!).

Mike B.
Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by mugen828 mugen828 Profile at 9/26/16 2:43:22 PM
Wow, between this and the other 2016 report on the forum it makes me envious of others being able to travel so much!

Glad you had a great time all around and thanks for the write up. I really enjoyed read it!

- mugen828
157 Coasters -- Favorite Coaster -- Nitro (SFGAdv)
117 Steel -- 40 Wood -- Home Park: SFGADv
Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by glutton glutton Profile at 9/27/16 12:34:17 AM
Wow AirBear, you've sure been busy! I wish I were retired so I could do more amusement park visits around the country. (Of course, my hubby isn't quite as eager to visit theme parks as I am. Something about his brain getting rattled.) So far this year, I've only managed the Bay Area parks (+ Santa Cruz) and a trip to Magic Mountain, but I bought a Cedar Fair Platinum Pass for 2017, so I can plan an Ohio trip and probably Knotts. Plus we're going to SFGrAdv in NJ next month.
One of these days, I'm going to run into you at SFDK, though I'm not sure how I'll pick you out!
Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by AirBear AirBear Profile at 9/27/16 11:26:50 AM
Thanks to everyone for the responses!

Frontrow - I'm sure we will enjoy Lightning Rod when we eventually get to ride it. I'm glad you were able to get so many rides on it during your visit. And Ravine Flyer is truly one of the best night rides out there.

Rob - Colleen and I have always had a soft spot for the smaller parks and sought them out on our trips. The big parks are great, but a slow-paced day at a smaller park suits us just fine.

Mike - yes, the AirBears will be at Phoenix Phall Phunfest this year. While our schedule for the weekend is still up in the air, we will be at Knoebels all day that Saturday, plus perhaps the Friday evening event. Dorney's Coaster Madness event is a possibility for Sunday, though we're trying to squeeze in a visit with a family friend in Altoona either Friday or Sunday as well.

Mugen828 - more travel was all part of the plan for retirement. It's driven by a desire to get out there and do it while we still can, because you just never know when things may change. Time to check some things off the bucket list (Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon on this next trip).

Glutton - it sounds like you and I are going to be in the same part of the country early next month, though perhaps not close enough to cross paths. But you never know, so to spot me look for a 61-year-old with long silver/gray (formerly brown) hair & beard wearing glasses. My hair is actually longer than Colleen's right now, and I've been told I look like either Santa Claus or Jerry Garcia (I prefer the latter). And the most likely place this fall for an AirBear sighting (other than PPP or a random Discovery Kingdom visit) is at most Cal football home games in section I row 44. Go Bears!

Rick

* This post was modified at 9/27/16 10:47:11 PM *

Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by mugen828 mugen828 Profile at 9/27/16 3:34:41 PM
Well then that's living the dream! I'm happy for you both being able to travel.

I was at the Grand Canyon in May, and if you've never seen it before, pictures don't do it justice. We got snowed on the first day we were there, so be prepared for weird weather!

- mugen828
157 Coasters -- Favorite Coaster -- Nitro (SFGAdv)
117 Steel -- 40 Wood -- Home Park: SFGADv
Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by glutton glutton Profile at 9/27/16 11:48:55 PM
AirBear said:

Glutton - it sounds like you and I are going to be in the same part of the country early next month, though perhaps not close enough to cross paths. But you never know, so to spot me look for a 61-year-old with long silver/gray (formerly brown) hair & beard wearing glasses. My hair is actually longer than Colleen's right now, and I've been told I look like either Santa Claus or Jerry Garcia (I prefer the latter). And the most likely place this fall for an AirBear sighting (other than PPP or a random Discovery Kingdom visit) is at most Cal football home games in section I row 44. Go Bears!

Rick

Ok Rick, we'll have to connect at a Cal game. Believe it or not, my seats are also in section I, but lower down, row 19, a few rows in front of the disabled seating. Me: mid forties, brown shoulder length hair, wearing blue & gold ;-) Glad we finally have a somewhat earlier game this weekend instead of all the night games! Are you going Saturday?

Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by MABrider MABrider Profile at 9/28/16 2:10:02 PM
AirBear said:

Mike - yes, the AirBears will be at Phoenix Phall Phunfest this year. While our schedule for the weekend is still up in the air, we will be at Knoebels all day that Saturday, plus perhaps the Friday evening event. Dorney's Coaster Madness event is a possibility for Sunday, though we're trying to squeeze in a visit with a family friend in Altoona either Friday or Sunday as well.
Rick

Good news. Look forward to seeing you both!

I will be at Knoebel's Friday night and of course all day Saturday.

Sunday AM I will head to Dorney for Coaster Madness. I plan to check-in at Comfort Suites across the street at 2, take a nap, and go back around 6 for the food.
There should be some other folks we know in the park as well.

Mike B.
Re: AirBear's 2016 Summery Summary by AirBear AirBear Profile at 9/29/16 11:30:02 AM
glutton said:

Ok Rick, we'll have to connect at a Cal game. Believe it or not, my seats are also in section I, but lower down, row 19, a few rows in front of the disabled seating. Me: mid forties, brown shoulder length hair, wearing blue & gold ;-) Glad we finally have a somewhat earlier game this weekend instead of all the night games! Are you going Saturday?

Yes, we are going to the game this Saturday and thank goodness it's a 3pm kickoff this time. The 7:30 starts and 4-hour game length keep me up past my bedtime :-)

We will also be at LaVal's Northside around 1-2:30 for pregame pizza and beer (we usually sit in the outdoor patio).