After not enough sleep I awoke to both blinding sunlight and the deafening roar of a thousand trucks clattering past outside. Fortunately the car hadn’t been towed away overnight and it was with slightly fresher eyes that we discovered the envelope had contained detailed instructions on how to find the hotel room! Oops. After a quick glimpse at Skyrush and a tactical stock up from Walmart, we hit the road to Pittsburgh, again.
Day 1 – Kennywood
The view as we picked a prime spot in the free parking area, at the top of an outdoor escalator, was a sight for sore eyes. The freshly painted phantom was gleaming and the curtain, which seems to spend more time down than it does operating was chugging up the lift hill in a welcoming fashion. Everything was back on track.
Sadly the first thing we came across on park is that the Old Mill was spiting for the day, I had been looking forward to checking out the umpteenth iteration of this classic dark ride.
But there were more pressing matters just around the corner and we took our spot in a slow and steady 30 minute queue (it’s back to one train operation already) for the unique stylings of #1 Steel Curtain.
First impression was that the lift hill is extremely loud, especially when on board, pretty much the only factor that would hurt the rerideability of this thing, which I loved. An excellent kick off to the trip.
There’s nothing life changing going on here, but it’s a very refreshing, modern take on the multi-loopers of old and so much more enjoyable for it. It rides very well with decent forces in all the right places and the inversions are interesting and varied. The layout tries to throw a couple of good airtime moments into the mix but they don’t really land and that’s probably the main thing that holds the ride back for me. It may have a silly football theme but I did enjoy the stylised announcements that come with it and visually it’s a pretty stunning coaster, particularly when you catch certain elements at some angles.
Headed straight over to #2 Phantom’s Revenge from there, which was another instant winner. Those trains are like riding in an armchair, strangely comfortable while leaving you in a very exposed and comprimised position for once things get going.
And oh, how it gets going. That second, terrained drop is insane. It’s not the most spectacular in the sensation department due to the profiling, but it picks up a ton of speed from this into a very forceful pullout and turnaround, which is unnervingly smooth.
Things only get more exciting from there as you hurtle up a weird kink in a tunnel that always shifted me out of position, left me pinned there for the entirety of the following corner and then the magic happens.
The ridiculous airtime moments that are awkwardly crammed into the final section are frighteningly good, especially sitting in that armchair stance at the back of the train. There’s just so much character to this ride, it’s a total legend.
I did slightly fall in love with this area that it sits in as well. The interaction between Phantom, Thunderbolt and the terrain here is just one of those magic spots in a park that gets me all giddy thinking about all the visual moments it can deliver.
Talking of #3 Thunderbolt, that was a silly bit of fun. I couldn’t work out at all what was going on with the layout from the station, there’s a perfect bit of framing that makes it look like you won’t even make it up the first hill. It’s not overly violent but the crazy laterals that cause them to enforce having 2 people in every row, no singles, are the highlight, along with the very landscape driven layout.
From here we hit the parks only operating dark ride, Ghostwood Estate. The preshow is a little on the nose, in that Mr. Ghostwood both sets the scene from a storytelling perspective, but also rattles off all the safety instructions completely out of character. It’s a fairly standard fare, early style target shooter with spooky scenes, the type that makes me regret playing the game on a single lap because I miss most of what’s actually going on visually. We experienced a short break down, so got to stare at this one particular part for a good while though.
While queueing for that one we had begun to grow uneasy about the hotel situation again, the uncertainty was gnawing at the back of our minds. We took a brief interlude from the park at this point to make some phonecalls. The first one was to the hotel for that night, who were simply unable to accommodate our request to change the details due to a combination of being useless and rude. Seeing how that might have ended up being the case for a further 20-odd establishments, I decided to give the booking company a call instead. I explained the situation to a guy who clearly didn’t know what he was doing – we’re on holiday, all of the bookings appear to have the wrong card details, I’ve updated them on your site (as instructed) but it hasn’t worked, can you do something about it?
The answer was no, with the only offer being to cancel all of the rooms for me, then go through rebooking every single one over the phone with him again at that very moment, while none of the original prices I had spent countless hours going out of my way to obtain would be honoured. I was in the middle of arguing that last point when the guy simply hung up on me. Thanks for being a loyal member eh? It was clear we would have to take matters into our own hands and after one more failed attempt with the next hotel, we decided to ditch that one and book something else on the spot, hoping that the rest would be at least somewhat helpful when the time came. For now, that was too much time spent not on park, back in we go.
To add to our troubles, Sky Rocket appeared to have gone down on our way out and had not returned to operation as we passed it again. So it was time for the #4 Jack Rabbit.
I’ve heard the tales of the legendary double down on this ride and even got a play by play of it from the row behind us while on board. “Here comes the double dip. Airtime. Hoho!” While yes, that part is admittedly rather good, it’s very much a coaster defined by a single moment amongst several left turns.
We went back to check on #5 Sky Rocket again and all was well. The prototype is pretty decent to be fair and I much prefer it to the version 2s, not least because they hadn’t yet invented the various awful restraint systems that come with it. Aside from comfort levels, the layout just has more going on obviously and flows much better than straight lines. Both the top hat and hold before the vertical drop are quirky and the rest rides with a similar charm to a lap bar Eurofighter, so, passable.
#6 Racer was now needed to complete the woodie set for the park and the queue was a lot less stewy than it had looked earlier. I rode a ridiculous 49 woodies on this trip, upping the wood count by over 60% and I can see myself struggling to come up with much to say about a fair few of them as they all begin to blend into one. S’alright.
While in the vicinity we took the opportunity for a reride on Steel Curtain and made it as far as sitting in the seats with the lap bar down before being evacuated back behind the air gates due to a restraint issue. Having queued an almost identical 30 minutes and come so close to riding, there was no real option other than to stick it out and watch the comedy unfold. The restraint system makes a very characteristic fast sequence of clicks as it gets activated and deactivated at the push of a button the console. The operator must have spammed it a good hundred times over the course of the next half hour, we believe more for effect than to be of use. An engineer had to come and replace one of the retrofitted seatbelt locking mechanisms on the train in order to fix the issue, and dropping his spanner down under the station didn’t help matters. After many more shrugs from the operator and “I’m just pushing buttons”, we were back in action. More points for Steel Curtain as far as I’m concerned, it became a running joke of the trip to keep pressing the car unlock and lock button in an attempt to replicate the noise.
Time was running a little short now and we still had two creds to get. Well, one, as the Lil’ Phantom was spiting, though I don’t know if it’s one they would have let us on anyway.
Last up was #7 Exterminator, the oddly themed indoor Reverchon spinner which actually made it reasonably interesting, span well too.
Satisfied with the achievements, we spent the final hour of the evening on Phantom’s Revenge, a suitably spectacular way to end the day. The staff were really good fun, the ride was kicking all sorts of ass and I really did love Kennywood by the time we left. It could well be my favourite park of the trip. Which is worrying.