USA 06/23 – Hersheypark
ArieForce had of course been a major draw, but we did want just one more thing to sweeten the deal for heading this way. There’s another RMC that just opened, right?
Yes, a mere 11 hours away by car was our old friend Hersheypark. There hasn’t been a road trip without it so far and why break that tradition when they’ve been treating us so well.
The entire day was dedicated to driving there, with the only light at the end of the tunnel being that the park offers a ‘sweet start’ on the night before your main ticket – a 2 hour window in which to preview some of the attractions.
After a comfortable start and a hearty breakfast, there wasn’t a whole lot to it. Driving, lots of driving, some more food, fuel. As the destination grew closer, things got a little tense as an accident up ahead was pushing our arrival time back an inconsiderate amount. Thankfully it had all cleared by the time we reached it and we rolled into the car park (free, as it was so late) with pretty much the perfect amount of time on the clock.
Day 7 – Hersheypark
The obvious move and only clear motive was to get Wildcat’s Revenge under our belt as soon as possible to alleviate any forms of the old cred anxiety. Couldn’t resist a cheeky lap on Skyrush first though as we passed it.
Felt like I was back home in the most terrifying coaster seat on the planet. It was riding with a slightly more pronounced shuffle than ever before, one which managed to take the edge off of that first drop slam (unless that was done by their tinkering up there), but also made the corners and speed more intense than ever. The airtime was brutally sublime and those special sideways moments in my back left seat were as unexpected and hardhitting as ever. This ride can do no wrong.
Enough nostalgia though, time for the main event. #1 Wildcat’s Revenge was so fresh that the locals were all talking about it like it was the hot topic. The brake run sits just above the final stages of the queue line and the ride was garnering many an extreme reaction upon guests hitting it, just like big Arie had the night before, only far more frequent. On 3 trains, this thing hauls pretty well and an almost full queue for the night took us around 40-60 minutes to clear.
Lockers are provided for loose articles just before the station stairs, in a Steve and Twisted Timbers style, only worse. The system they’ve put in place requires guests to memorise not only which of the 4 banks of lockers they selected, but the number of their designated locker. At no point is this made abundantly clear, hence after the ride has blown their mind, most people can’t remember where their stuff is.
No such faff on the way in though, that’s a problem for future us. The station has an ominous rocking soundtrack and murals of 3 big cats on the far wall, mirroring those that can be found on the front of each train, which we inexplicably named Frosty, Gimpy and Blue. We were assigned somewhere towards the middle and soon strapped in, intrigued to notice that the seatbelts are made of a soft plastic for a change, one that you wouldn’t have to worry so much about should it become trapped between your leg and the restraint on such an airtime machine. Also present on the restraints were the Lightning Rod handles, great for peeling out on the ex-world’s fastest wooden rollercoaster, not sure what use they had here, but fun.
And fun is the name of the game, the ride begins with a rather more unorthodox terrain-based pre-lift section that joyously bounces down and down the hill, tactically pushing the beginnings of the lift further left, relative to the station. It’s a steep one, one that catches rather unnervingly and then begins with the slightest of crawls, making sure train 3 has sufficiently cleared the end brakes before letting you ramp up to the top.
I’m almost getting tired of saying it, but the first drop is fine and functional, basically exactly the same thing as the previous day, but no Rattler. The pull out feels a little tighter, up into the yet another world’s largest inversion that has a silly name. It’s interesting that this part of the ride mimics the crest of the original lift hill and curved drop of the old GCI.
Jolly good show as you follow that turnaround and then head into a decent, but not overwhelming, airtime hill. This is followed up by more double up shenanigans into a large overbank with a clever and very defined outwards pop at the top of it. The structure supporting all this is a mess of black tubing at all angles, contrasted by it riding with a very clinical efficiency while a spotlight follows the train around it.
Here comes a stall, we must have a stall. I can’t knock it from the perspective of the average rider, but nor can I praise a very average example of that which I’ve seemingly done countless times by now. Another overbank with another outwards pop follows, in a moment of symmetry back the other way, and then things step up a gear. I’m starting to notice a two act trend here.
What looked like Joker‘s trick airtime hill here, where it flattens out at the top and then kicks up again into the actual drop, has an unbanked slight left turn running through the whole thing. The result is fabulous, lifting you up, pinning you to the side of the train for several seconds while wobbling about, and then lurching back down again.
As the pacing has picked up, another inversion hits with a lot more vigour. There’s a particularly unusual entry into it, which creates an almost airtime moment before flipping you over in a more compromised position. There is time to recover from here however, as it reaches the lowest part at the base of the hill, the least remarkable sequence (of just two small moments) takes you through some turns and a quick overbank that does not much of anything.
One more low roll through the structure leads to moments that you can’t prepare for. Wickedly twisted airtime hills that throw you to one side, then the other, then back again as you peel into the brakes with one final violent whip. It’ll tenderise your sides good and proper in this last section if you give it half a chance, and these final blows are the best at defining the character of the ride for me. God damn Joe Draves.
There was a tough act to follow from the previous day and this thing held its own. It’s firmly mid-pack in terms of global RMCs (read as; a personal top 25), which goes well with its firmly mid-size stature. The strengths are abundant, yet again there were moments that caught me by surprise, things that haven’t been done before, or were simply executed beautifully. While it wasn’t a whirlwind pace of life altering insanity for me, it certainly was for most, if not everyone around us. They ain’t never had anything like this before at the Hersheypark.
We rounded out the sweet start with a final lap as the queue began to die down for the night, and then of course got stuck in that locker nonsense because, when someone forgets their number, a massive line forms behind them all trying to get to the same screen on the same bank while they either:
a) stare into space while trying to recall that which feels like a lifetime ago, or
b) have a staff member hack the back end of the system and go through every locker in turn
The short term solution seems to be drill it into people’s heads. There’s a member of staff that lets you into the pen to put your stuff away, who has the usual spiel about no loose items. Remember your number! Remember your number! should be added to this spiel, along with the screen that gives you the number, maybe a sign or two, station announcements, a sticker in the train, a banner over the crest of the lift…
The long term solution, use pictures of cats like Steve. Better systems are clearly available.
We had problems of our own once we got back to the car. It wouldn’t start. A vicious ticking sound and nothing doing, the most obvious assumption was the battery. A nearby guest kindly offered to help out, but no one had leads, so we headed back to the park entrance to track down a staff member and see if they could assist. The parking and security team at the tram stop are legends and golf buggied us back to the car where we were met by a man with a battery pack and a waiver. The jump start worked, Hersheypark is amazing, but tense moments followed.
Now that we had power, the car also decided to throw up a warning about loss of tyre pressure, oh and in our haste to arrive at the park after all that driving, we had cruised it in with a mere 10 miles left in the tank. Having had a jump start, it’s best to leave the car running for a good half an hour so that you can recharge properly. But we also need the engine off to fuel it.
The staff had recommended a garage just around the corner and we limped along, dealing with the tyres first. The car hire had graced us with a very slow puncture, but balance was temporarily restored, sufficient enough to continue the madness. Then, after leaving it running as long as we dared, and doing a few laps of the forecourt to spook any passers-by, the nerves built. After fuelling, it started again, just. And now we can live in fear of a dodgy battery or a flat tyre at any point in the trip. Good.
Day 8 – Hersheypark
The following morning saw the Hershey’s Chocolate World dark ride I’d always wanted to do, but always been distracted by Skyrush, being open before the main park. A perfect opportunity.
It starts off amazing, with singing farmyard animals.
Then gets very scientific.
I like the whole illusion of what’s real and what’s not running through it and there’s certainly a good length to the attraction. Plus, a gift of chocolate at the end. And it’s free, parking costs aside.
We then hid in some shade while the crowds gathered in front of the main entrance. Picture this, but busy. A DJ was attempting to hype the crowd (and get people to download the app), there were trainee jugglers roaming the path, good times were had by all in the sun.
It’s another revisit of a revisit from here, so I’ll summarise as best I can.
Wildcat’s Revenge kicked ass again.
Lightning Racer has deteriorated horribly, what little excitement there was before is burnt out by the rumbles and rolls of a GCI that wants to be the next Gwazi. Then it broke down, leaving us stuck on the brakes for an age.
Candymonium has improved. Opted for what I’d call the magic Mako seat (row 2) and was very pleasantly surprised with the result. Rather than sunglasses on, not caring, it gave glimmers of the comparisons between the two I’d heard about in the earlier days. The first hill was pretty sweet, the first trim felt non-existent. Far less meandering overall and a solid performance from the big brown.
Comet is still solid, was sad to have missed it last time and it didn’t disappoint on this occasion. Carries so much momentum into the final brakes for something that isn’t very big, is very old, and goes on very long.
Storm Runner has a nicely shaded queue, a welcome respite on the busiest visit we’ve ever had. The ride still packs a punch, but does feel just a little too short of an experience on a day with significant queues.
Skyrush never gets a queue, so it was weird to not be able to immediately walk up the stairs. Worth it regardless, this remains my favourite in the park because it’s just so ridiculous and unlike anything else. Inevitably they’ve just landed themselves the best one-two punch in the world for me, goodbye Energylandia, so the dilemma is now real at Hershey – what do you close out your night on? Head said Wildcat, heart said Skyrush. We went with the head, but started at Skyrush anyway, then ended up cycling a few more times. Just one more go. Just one more go. So hard to resist.
Highlights on this occasion include getting reacquainted with the back right seat because I always go left, and then subsequently taking a nasty friction burn to one leg from the restraint as I slid sideways with ridiculous force. Gotta love it.
The consequences of that addiction left us with only a single lap to finish on the RMC, but walk-ons of the best ride on park probably beat back to back 40-60 minute queues of the second best, plus more locker shenanigans. The heart knows better.