USA 06/22 – Mt. Olympus, Bay Beach + Six Flags Great America

We had a troubled history with Mt. Olympus before ever setting foot in the place, which is always a good sign. Back in 2020 I had committed to one of their offensively cheap deals to stay the night on resort, including entrance tickets for both check in and check out days, for the same price as any average hotel in the region.

When it came to cancelling this one, it appeared they were the most solid of any park we had dealings with. An instant reply, where others took weeks or months, to say ‘sure mate, come back any time in the next 5 years when you know what’s what.’

2021 rolled around and while I was playing with the plans once more, I reached out about reserving some tentative dates and was told via email that I would have to phone, even from outside the US. While on international minutes, the news was dropped that in order to book what was essentially the equivalent dates to the previous year, in a worse room this time, would be an additional $200.

“Why has the price trebled?”
Several minutes on hold.
“It is what it is, sir.”
“Well I’d rather cancel it then.”
“But that’ll cost you the $50 deposit.”
Better than 200.

They were throwing around a different cheap deal that year, park tickets for a measly 8 bucks, so we ended up with those instead. Fairer play the second time around, they honoured those in 2022 without quarrel.

Anyway, enough faff, I just wanna ride the wooden one.

Day 9 – Mt. Olympus

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Which one?

We opted for the opposite tactic to Holiday World here – start strong and go smaller, which meant big bad #1 Hades 360 was up first.

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In the absence of Voyage rocking my world, the pressure had shifted to the OG Gravity boy. I knew it was the less popular option, mainly for the sake of brutality. A sign was teasing in the station – ‘Hades is running particularly rough right now’, but given my experience with these in the past, that could only ever work in my favour, right? Right?

Well the pre-lift section is insane. That violent, Helix-style drop straight out of the station is like nothing else that’s been done with wood before or since. It bounces around a very strange assortment of corners and surprisingly potent hills almost as if the devil doesn’t know what to do with himself. It’s good to this point, though I could already feel it in my bones that this one was gonna get vicious.

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But not necessarily in the right places. First drop gave a very similar vibe to Voyage – that’s nowhere near as good as it should be from the back row. Then the tunnel happens. What.

The level of assault on the senses is just surreal. 1000dB of wood, concrete and screams pierce the very soul while you can’t see a single thing and the ride is bucking you all over the place like the very best of Gravity moments. I was laughing uncontrollably with glee at this ridiculousness, thinking please keep this up.

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Of course the tunnel can’t keep going forever, people would go deaf. With no way of knowing what’s just happened you emerge into sunlight and are immediately upside down. I love the timing of this element, but the way it rides does absolutely nothing for me, just like the other corkscrews on Gravitys. It’s official, Mine Blower has the best inversion.

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The following corner is a bit cornery and then you plunge back into round two of tunnel madness by means of a surprisingly steep drop that’s basically better than the first. More insanity, less speed carries you back out into a double down hidden within the lift structure, another example of great placement. Then the woods happen.

This final third-ish feels like over half the ride and just doesn’t live up to everything that came before it. And sadly that makes this part simply not worth the brutality. It is a super rough ride, even for one of these and I can totally sympathise with those who might not be able to handle it. If Mine Blower broke you, this will ruin you. It bumbles around the trees, again without purpose, but also with much gentler track shaping. And by bumble and gentle I mean it’s actually rattling your brains out through your bowel, before ending on the biggest wet blanket of a brake run.

Hmm.

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Visually I had no idea what else was going on in this park, but #2 Zeus is the next biggest, pictured here on the right. And possibly the bottom left, one of them anyway.

Back on the CCI wagon feeling right at home in these PTC trains by now, Zeus was surprisingly good. Solid air, fun laterals, rode well. It ain’t no Raven but it was perfectly enjoyable and got a well earned second lap out of us.

Unlike Adventureland where I had the hunch that something might be bad, I’ve always known Mt. Olympus as the place where everything is bad. Not true at this moment in time.

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#3 Cyclops had a turn next, pictured here on the right. And possibly the bottom left. It’s both lesser in stature and ride experience, but was otherwise bearable, to the more seasoned veteran at least. I’m told they’ve changed something about it and that big drop that comes halfway through used to be a lot more… questionable.

The stories did come true here though, one particular woman who rode Cyclops came off more distressed than I’ve ever seen anyone from a rollercoaster. Properly broken down in fits of tears on the offload platform, while the staff and her companion didn’t even know what to do. I felt really sorry for the both of them, they didn’t need this in their lives, it’s only us who have to suffer for our art.

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And suffer I did, on #4 Pegasus. How is the smallest woodie the absolute worst? A right proper internal organ shaker, I was very glad that it spends most of the layout unusually high up and at lower speeds. People didn’t know what to do with themselves after this one either, though the children are immune of course.

That marked park complete, as the bastards don’t let you on their only steel coaster Little Titans. We’ll get some E&F Miler goodness at some point, don’t you worry.

We went back for another battle with Hades to try and settle on a stronger opinion. This time we managed to cheese the queue by skipping at least half an hour of poor one train ops as they called for a two and we were the only pair for miles of stairs. In our haste we were back in the thick of it without even having time to contemplate.

The second lap did no favours to the ride. After that initial shock, I would have placed it up there amongst the hard hitters of the Gravity Group world. Not quite top 25 material, but up there.
As soon as I knew what was coming in the tunnel it simply became obnoxious and I just couldn’t look past that. The body was enjoying the being thrown around but the head just wanted the stupid noise to end. The manner in which the ride just gets weaker and weaker as the layout progresses stood out even more and we declared that enough was enough. It’s mid table now and makes me think of it as Cú Chulainn’s abusive older brother. From amazing, to good, to running out of steam.

And so Mt. Olympus took the same turn and we ran out of steam. As a place it’s literally just wooden coasters and a water park, so if you don’t get on with either of those then I can certainly see the lack of love it gets. I wouldn’t say I disliked it, it’s kinda silly and unique with all that timber they don’t seemingly know what to do with. Always worth trying.

On to the next one.


Bay Beach Amusement Park

Elvis would be rolling in his grave. His favourite coaster did not treat us well and once again I really wanted to like this one.

On the journey here I had formulated a new plan, seeing that Mt. Olympus had taken far less time than, perhaps not expected, but hoped. This meant we were in one of our famous hurries as we left the car park and headed towards the one and only ride that meant anything, straight past a ticket booth.

It’s a weirdly laid out park and nothing like I expected for beachy amusements. Rather than the fun, dense, vintage feel of somewhere like Arnolds Park, this was sparse tarmac, sewage soaked grass and strangely spread out attractions, like no one wanted to be near each other.

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As seen here, the ticket booth outside the coaster was closed. This was the far end of the park and we had mainly wanted to scout out the queue and operations before committing to purchasing a particular number of laps for the ride. Several other booths were also closed back on route to the car park and we ended up all the way back where we started, which wasn’t an insignificant walk by any stretch of the imagination, especially in the heat and hurry. At last we had the privilege of handing over some cash only (we were witness to several arguments about this in a very short span of time). It is stupidly cheap ($1 a lap), but spirits weren’t swelling.

All the way back to #5 Zippin Pippin once more, we joined the queue for a couple of trains wait and handed some tickets over for lap 1 of 3. 3 felt like the magic number.

It’s cute, nothing special. Small scale wooden fun with some alright drops. Bit of a Jack Rabbit in that there’s one single moment on a triangular shaped hill at the end that far exceeds anything else going on in the layout. I don’t even think this one was intentional.

Our second lap took a little longer to queue for than the first, but we were still enjoying it and felt comfortable enough timewise to go for the third. As it pulled back into the station we noticed they had cleared the queue, other than a handful of folks still standing in the air gates, and were suddenly announcing that the ride would be closing for the wind. Not this again.

As we left the train I asked the attendant if we could ride again with what would now be a half empty train on it’s last lap, we had the tickets in hand for it and everything. She looked at an engineer standing on the exit ramp who instantly pulled a Six Flags New England on us.
“No, we need to clear the area now.”
They then proceeded to send the train half full, as we left without our third lap, laughing. Why?

Bah Beach.


The plan I had been formulating earlier involved having a little cheeky preview evening at Six Flags Great America. It was another of those parks that felt a little overwhelming on the sheer number of coasters to hit in a day front and we had no way of knowing how Six Flags that day would be.
On a less tactical level, we had just taken note of the fact that we’d ridden 5 woodies so far, an amount that would match any old school visit to Blackpool. With 5 more still available where we were headed to next, could we set some form of record?

No.

On arrival at the car park we drove under American Eagle to find the parking booth abandoned with a sign saying ‘go in and enjoy your day’. Good.

On arrival at the entrance to the park we handed over our passes to be told ‘no mate, these are for St. Louis only, you won’t be coming in today’. Bad.

The initial advice had been to contact St. Louis as they were our ‘home park’, so we attempted that while standing in the queue for guest services. No one picked up the phone. Once it was our time at the window we explained the situation, that we had had 2020 gold passes for ‘all parks’ that were meant to be honoured for 2022 but they seemed to have not been generated properly. The issue appeared to have been that Six Flags have of course since scrapped the old pass system completely and renamed everything, so what we should have had now was called the ‘extreme pass’. St. Louis had sold us short and downgraded us to a pass with only their park.

Bottom line was Great America can’t help. The conversation was a little frustrating as they were acting like St. Louis being our ‘home park’ was a matter of significance and we should ‘just go back there’, when they already knew we were foreign tourists on a road trip. What, jump in the car now and drive for another 4 hours? We want to get in tonight and we don’t care what our ‘home park’ is, it can be this one, it can be anything.

Nothing doing, changing the pass in any way was out of their hands. The temporary resolution was to give us a free ticket for what was now the last hour on park and an alternative phone number for St. Louis, written on the back of another guest’s personal details. Well that was now tomorrow’s problem, let’s see what we can achieve in this time frame.

Six Flags Great America

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#6 Goliath. The ride we were most likely to want multiple laps on and that would have perhaps suffered if it came down to coasters vs time tomorrow.

Early signs were good, we got a couple of laps in without leaving the seat because the station was empty. It’s a highly competent ride, but the streak continues for RMC in that their wood ain’t as good. In fact the streak ended that night, because that’s the set. Will they make another?

Short might be the best way to describe it, although maybe it actually felt a little more drawn out than Outlaw Run did. Lacking in significant moments might be the best way to describe it. The drop is amazing, the big turnaround thing is visually impressive but otherwise unremarkable. One strong airtime moment. Inversion and a good old stall. Big turnaround thing V2.0. End.

If anything it shows just how stupidly good RMC are though. Goliath lacks the longevity, the power and the insanity that makes many of their other rides the best of the best. And yet, as their weakest coaster I’d experienced yet, it’s still amongst the greatest rides in existence just for the sake of 3 elements at best.

Our woodie record ended at seven for the day, as we rode the #7 Little Dipper (better than the Boss) and realised it was too far to walk back to American Eagle, plus we hadn’t even laid eyes on Viper yet.

With about 15 minutes to go we just dashed for the nearest bad ride with bad capacity to save having to suffer it the next day and that happened to be another Intamin Impulse. This was the star attraction according to all the maps (though depicted as having Vekoma SLC track) due to having been given a brand new name and lick of paint – #8 Flash: Vertical Velocity. Foolishly we sat near the front to see what the ‘Twist’ side of the ride was like. Not good. Side to side movement in those clunky trains is a recipe for a collision. I’m officially team ‘Spike’ all the way and I assume that means good riddance to Wicked Twister.

With about 5 minutes to go we just dashed for the nearest bad ride with bad capacity to save having to suffer it the next day and that happened to be another S&S Free Spin, #9 Joker. I dread repeating these because the experience is so unpredictable and yet never lives up to my old friend Arashi. I either want a full, unrelenting spin in the same direction for the entire lap, or I want no spin at all. Six Flags ones tend to faff around in between the two and that generates the horrible parts – lurching changes of direction and being pinned upside down for too long. This was no exception.

Sadly it wasn’t a ride suited to being sunglasses on, not caring and upon return to the loose item storage it appeared that someone had taken said sunglasses by mistake. The attendant asked me what was up and I repeated that sentiment, though strangely his solution was to give me a lost and found card and state that they’d walk the ride area at the end of the day.
They’re not in the ride area, they’ve probably been taken.
Oh wait, no, they’re just smashed on the floor, thanks anyway.

And with that the rides were now closed. We were 4 creds closer to safely completing the park in a timely fashion, assuming we could even get in the next day. Most importantly though, our thirst for Goliath had been satiated.

Day 10


USA 06/22 – Valleyfair + Nickelodeon Universe

If the last three days had taught us anything it was that the weather forecast probably needed checking a bit more regularly. This highlighted the fact that were were due a severe thunderstorm at midday, so we’d better get our skates on.

Day 8 – Valleyfair

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All the fun of the fair.

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We headed straight to the back of the park first, to pick up the priorities. It’s an unusually shaped park with a long and thin layout, so basically no one had made it here yet, not that any of the queues were a problem, bar one.

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#1 Renegade was first on the bill, another chance for some GCI goodness. Though reputation preceded it, this one didn’t quite live up to those that we’d experienced over the past week, which had all been above average for their type. Renegade was precisely that, average. Serviceable.

The double twisted drop looks far better in photos than it performs in real life and though it’s fast paced and contains some undoubtably good moments, the focus on corners was a little too high for my personal tastes.

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#2 Excalibur was a fascinating one. Arrow mine train meets mega coaster, in such an awkward location that guests don’t ever find it. The huge drop was pretty spectacular for a ride of this nature and it had some surprisingly intense moments alongside another powerful pow of unexpected airtime. Just ended a little too quickly for my liking.

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With the clouds growing ever more ominous-looking, we skipped past the stupid wild mouse and hopped on #3 Wild Thing. Another fun, butter smooth, Morgan experience that was near identical to the last. Sadly the final series of hills weren’t as potent as they had been on Mamba, but the lack of queue made it far more rerideable at the very least.

Content that we now had all the coasters of significance under our belt, it was time to see how much we could mop up before the lightning shattered our hopes and dreams.

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Unlike Worlds of Fun, #4 Cosmic Coaster is fair game at Valleyfair. +1.

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I had it in my head that #5 High Roller was going to be a spinner clone, so to find that it was a Snoopy land little(ish) woodie was a pleasant surprise. Better than the Boss.

The moment we left the station for this one, staff members with clipboards came pouring up the exit ramp to shut the ride down before the very next train. There’s a storm coming, and we all best be ready when she does.

While walking back towards the entrance, confirming that everything was closing down around us once again, staff seemed jovial and optimistic towards those that would ask about the situation. Don’t worry folks, it’ll probably pass and everything will be fine later. That’s what I like to hear.

Luckily there’s a few indoor creds just down the road.


Nickelodeon Universe

After swerving to narrowly avoid parking in the Georgia section of the Mall of America, we settled on Maine and headed in.

The park have clearly got the measure of us, as there’s a wristband deal that gets you exactly the number of points for 1 ride on every coaster. It doesn’t come with any adhesive though, I believe the first ride you come to is supposed to supply you with a sticker so that you can actually wear it, but they weren’t doing that. Brandish wildly it is.

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It all began with #6 Fairly Odd Coaster, yet another Gerstlauer spinner, I knew someone had one today. All of this layout went to exactly the same part of the world for some reason. Good thing it’s good, although this one appeared to have aged poorly and was really crunchy in places.

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Talking of things that have aged poorly, #7 SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge was awful. Bad Eurofighter bad, it’s been a while since I’ve had that wakeup call. Shame it had to happen on a rarely seen unique layout.

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In fact here’s a car that was on track just earlier that morning.

The rain on the roof looked ridiculously intense while we were in here, so glad we got out of that one.

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#8 Pepsi Orange Streak, the huge custom Zierer Tivoli with multiple lifts that weaves in and out of everything in the entire park has to be one of the finest examples of these around. I’m gonna go with best ride in the park. So many visuals.

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Although #9 Back at the Barnyard Hayride, which is barely even a coaster, was also a solid contender for that title.

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Because last up was this stupid thing, #10 Avatar Airbender. To be fair I haven’t yet had a repeat of the original, awful Half Pipe experience where the restraint makes contact with your head on every launch and this one actually had a good bit of float at the tops. Still basically a flat ride.


Valleyfair the Revenge

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And from flat ride to flat ride in the form of #11 Steel Venom. As promised, Valleyfair were back in business later that very afternoon, once the storm had passed. For some reason our Platinum pass wouldn’t let us back into the car park a second time – the parking attendant asked when and were we got the pass from, before waving us in, confused.
“Last week, Kings Island.”
“Where?”

Back on topic, Intamin Impulses. Bleh. We sat in the back to make the most of the spike, while I hoped it didn’t ride as poorly as that one with the stupid angles. It didn’t, it was fine. A good bit of float at one of the two tops.

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Arrow looper was a thing that happened. Not sure I agree on calling something #12 Corkscrew when it has a vertical loopings as well.

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These #13 Mad Mouse Arrow mice are nothing short of a plague. I queued 90 minutes for my last one and I queued far too many minutes for this. It was running maximum capacity on cars, but each one spent a good 5-10 minutes stacking on the brake run, with guests getting visibly sunburnt and annoyed (yes, it was now back to high-30s°C, will the relentlessness never cease?). Everything else was walk on and they don’t even need the cred.

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Best part of the experience was the baby birds living inside this queueline TV, which was thankfully off. Plus the fact that it meant the park was complete. Been a while since that’s happened.

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Renegade hadn’t notably improved from earlier. S’alright.

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And Wild Thing was as predictable as can be.

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So, content with our day of great success, that’s all from Valleyfair. Good park, that.

Day 9


USA 06/22 – Adventureland + Arnolds Park

Day 7 – Adventureland

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And here it is. Where focus was lost and fatal mistakes were made.

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We got complacent and started ticking stuff off in an unordered fashion, starting with the grimly low capacity #1 Phoenix. Shelf model Maurer spinner. Meh.

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I didn’t even know what half these coasters were, coming in. Something wood, something steel.
#2 Outlaw turned out to be an unremarkable CCI with some fresh track in places.

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Dragon Slayer had apparently broken the previous day and was gone for the foreseeable. Don’t care, got the clone(s).
#3 Tornado was another woodie with more hills and less corners. For some reason in my head at least one of these was supposed to brutally murder us. Neither of the first two did, so that only left…

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#4 Underground, the indoor dark ride woodie. It had a preshow at the batching doors to the station, with this bloke waffling on inaudibly for a good while. Don’t go in the mine? Do go in the mine. Is it flooded?
Hilariously the operator asked if any of us were first timers and then put the fear in us by saying the first drop is real bad, but it’s alright after that. Considering the restraint had at least 12 inches of play, and the fact I still thought we were overdue a bruising, we spent the entire ride bracing for said drop.
The joke was on us, there ain’t one.

We headed to Monster, the main event, which had been running all morning. It was now closed, with staff doing stuff in the station.

This lead to collapsing on a bench outside, overheating, for at least another couple of hours, with endless noises of air venting that would get our hopes up but unfailingly mean nothing. Eventually the station was abandoned and we asked what was going on.
Oh, it’s not technical, it’s the wind.

Naively assuming that it would open again at some point over the next 10 or so hours that the park was due to be operating for, we bounced between the car park and the bench fruitlessly killing time in relative despair at the most significant spite of the trip so far. Eventually something started to feel off, all of the rides were closing down around us, also due to this ‘wind’ phenomenon and that exact same atmosphere of guests being disgruntled at not being able to do anything was brewing once more.

We went to guest services for a second opinion as there was still a good 9 hours to go, right? The response was ambivalent.
It’s the wind mate.
Do you know the forecast though?

🤷‍♀️

Fair play to them, they openly offered us tickets to return the following day, which we had to decline as this was the only day allocated to the park.

Back to the bench, where eventually some maths was performed. We can’t come back tomorrow but we could be within striking distance a few days later, at the expense of a minor cred run and because something else was brewing. It would be stupid, but it could work. We also had somewhere to go this very evening that would have to be sacrificed if we did just stick around all day, potentially for nothing.

Umm, so…

Ahh, but…

Umm, so…

Such a crisis. The reason we’d killed ourselves in St. Louis was essentially to open up Arnolds Park as an opportunity and it felt so silly to throw that all away by sitting here for another 8 hours with no guarantee of results.

Back to guest services. We’ll have those tickets, but for later in the week please. “Sure! You guys came to ride the monster, and you can’t ride the monster!”
It was so refreshing to meet someone who gets it.

Back to the car, now with two open-dated tickets and a couple of free arcade passes for the crate.

3 hours of corn fields later…


Arnolds Park

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And we made the right decision, eventually. This place was lovely.

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#5 Legend was the main draw of course, a particularly ancient woodie that kicks some particular ass. By far the highlight of the day, good, clean, old school fun. Better than the other Legend.

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Construction, get excited.

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The other piece of history was the Allan Herschell #6 Wild Mouse, who must be so proud that there’s now ten thousand of these in China, delighting generations.
It was pretty brutal, but fun, as all solo rides should be.

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What they said.

Day 8


USA 06/22 – Silver Dollar City

Having made it all the way to Branson the previous night, we were treated to a later start than usual and a short, scenic drive past some Ozarks to what was probably my most anticipated park of the trip. The weather was showing no signs of relenting however, and you know it’s bad when even the locals are complaining that it’s too hot. We thought we could at least prepare for it this time by, say, putting on some shorts, after it had been a bit of a surprise the day before, but it turns out most things simply aren’t built for this kind of heat.

Day 6 – Silver Dollar City

First impressions – the car park was a bit naff. There’s no real form of organisation as to where you go and the, what can loosely be described as trams, are sporadic and inconveniently placed amongst a sea of unshaded concrete and cars. The options were to wait a long time and probably not get on, while getting burnt, or walk for a long time and get burnt, so getting to the entrance was a battle in itself.

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You have a great pass out ahead of you.

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#1 Wildfire was first, with a beautifully shaded indoor queue hidden amongst some dense forest. I fell in love with the setting of the actual park itself immediately.
As for the B&M, s’alright. One of the better ones amongst the plain old sit downs for having a bit of variety between those inversions. And the views.

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It was from here that we got lost, and learnt that this park is all about exploration, which I both liked and disliked. When you’re happy to relax and stumble around, it’s great. When you’re hot and bothered and want to get somewhere, it sucks.

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Eventually we found #2 Powder Keg and got launched into some more equally amazing views, spotting just the tips of several more coasters through the thick, mountain top foliage. The ride surprised me mainly for having track that looks like Bullet Coaster. Keeping the old, water coaster ending without the water is a nice touch, hurts the pacing somewhat though. Crashing one of the old boats through the roof of a building as theming was also a nice touch.

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Pressing on further, we encountered the fabled RMC. Their first wooden creation. Let’s get this out there – their wood ain’t as good.

I love Lightning Rod, and the wood somehow managed to add to that insanity, but then it also broke it. I love Wildfire, but to me it had always been the weakest RMC and the material itself made absolutely no difference as of opening year. If it deteriorates like #3 Outlaw Run, I feel it will only detract. It doesn’t carry that true, satisfying wooden coaster rumble, but it can carry a headache inducing judder that distracts from the glory, when sat in a wheel seat. I quickly learned to avoid those.

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Wildfire is free, to be happy, as Outlaw Run instantly became my new least favourite. It’s deathly short for the size of the initial drop, which is amazing itself. The first, thing, doesn’t really do much for me. The following five airtime moments are lovely and varied, play well with the terrain, with the structural near misses and are undoubtably a very good sequence of events. I really didn’t like the double barrel roll. The end.

Still world class, obviously, we’ve come to expect that as standard by now, but something has to prop up the list and it’s unfortunate as I was rooting for this one to be a bit of an underdog these days, particularly in this style of park.

Suddenly the stakes were raised. There was a clear opening for a Mack launch coaster to be the best ride in the park. After getting lost again, and at the very last second asking a man where #4 Time Traveller was, only for him to point directly in front of us at the entrance sign, we headed in to learn more about where the Happiness all began.

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Swing and a miss. I was rooting for this one too and though it also has brief moments of excellence, a lot of the layout is simply suboptimal. The sexy robot set the bar too high, in the future.

First drop, back row, incredible. We never left that seat throughout all of our laps for fear that the ride would suffer even more without that highlight moment. It did a lot of playful things in the inversions with the spinning, sometimes compromising my seating position and other times creating some gloriously disorientating visuals. Then it feels like there are just as many overbanks that slow to a crawl and do absolutely nothing. There’s a couple of cracking, back slamming, airtime moments if you happen to be facing the right way and yet that second launch essentially goes straight into the final brake run. That’s the real killer. You know I’m all about that pacing.

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#5 Thunderation eh? Awful. Rode terribly and had that fake out ending again.

It was at the point we took a brief respite to have some food that I noticed a distinct lack of rocking chairs in this park. Whenever we wanted one, there was never a nice place to stop, sit and soak up that atmosphere, of which there wasn’t one really. There was no music, no festivities, no spontaneous banjo players, it was even supposedly too hot to make knives in the knife shop.

We ended up having a subpar meal in what can best be described as a sweaty canteen, with people crowding over and around us, mid eating, while there was nowhere better to go with it. A man here noticed my Dollywood shirt, at this very moment mocking everything that this park stood for, and made the simple statement ‘we live about two hours from there’. It wasn’t to strike up conversation, it wasn’t even a point of interest. It was just a fact. Maybe the heat was getting to them to, but I didn’t particularly rate the clientele here either.

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#6 Fire in the Hole was ridiculously popular for some reason and had a hideous queue, while all major coasters were walk-on, but the post lunchtime blues seemed like the best opportunity to get it over with. Is it because they class it as a water ride?
‘Fire in the Hole!’ was shouted many times throughout the layout in an attempt to raise spirits and in anticipation of that all important moment. ‘The Baldknobbers have got me pants’ was also a good line, though I may be crossing it with ‘Gromit, there’s a bomb in me pants’.

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Continuing on the dark ride theme, we ventured into the Flooded Mine. Great scenery, great song, shame they went and put guns on it really.

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Here’s an obligatory kugel fountain shot for the fans, to mark the moment it all went wrong.

The last cred to mop up for the day was Grand Ex-spite-sition Coaster, not as grand as it sounds being yet another Zamperla 80STD. We got as far as sitting in the train but it simply wouldn’t dispatch. The operator was shrugging and pushing buttons, but not in a fun, Steel Curtain way. It was gone.
We were wordlessly evacuated, with no apology to the clearly disappointed families and children (or the heartbroken cred hunters). While sitting nearby to watch what went down, another staff member appeared soon after but only to carry the ‘unavailable’ sign down towards the entrance, so we gave up on it for the time being and went to ride the train.

The train was alright. It came with a bit of a pantomime in the woods, though even the live fire arm wasn’t working in the heat. There was a promise of ‘better views of Outlaw Run’ that wasn’t delivered on. There was promise of a train robbery that wasn’t delivered on. All in all it ain’t no song about a devil on a big black train, with the sheer terror of getting ash in your eye.

Upon our return to the station, we heard a number of people audibly complaining about some other rides being down. Sure enough the rapids ride, Infinity Falls was also closed for the heat. We had a subpar cinnamon bread just to confirm the food situation was also still poor and went back over to Outlaw Run, getting as far as the air gates before it also ‘broke down.’ An engineer arrived and seemed to be looking at a restraint issue but not in a fun, Steel Curtain way, and then quickly gave up.

No communication was made and gradually guests began to leave the station of their own accord. Eventually we asked one of the team what was going on and he said that the heat was causing power cuts, so they had been advised to cease operation of all rides for fear of something getting stuck somewhere. With the day just over half way done by now, surely that would have been useful information to give to their guests, rather than speculative silence? I guess not.

And so we wandered back out of the queue to find that absolutely everything was now closed, yet the park were choosing to say nothing about it. Was it too much to ask for a ‘Sorry folks, but stick around, we’ve still got live entertainment, food and shopping’? I guess so.

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It was even too hot for water features to function apparently.

As we headed back to the park entrance, we got swept up in a depressing exodus of souls all exiting via the gift shop in a very solemn mood. One staff member broke the silence in poor taste with a “Well, goodbye then, *awkward laugh*”, to no one in particular.

Thus ended our day at Silver Dollar City, minus the uncomfortable walk back to the car because, of course, no trams.

This was the rival to what is essentially my favourite park ever, and yet not one thing landed the right way. I was worried that a single day wasn’t going to be enough for the place amongst all our other crazy adventures, instead it turned out that we didn’t even need that. I may come off as bitter and jaded about all this as I usually do, particularly when there were obvious external factors that aren’t the park’s fault, but I am genuinely upset that I didn’t like this place.

I miss Kennywood.

Day 7


USA 06/22 – Six Flags St. Louis + Worlds of Fun

As we left Indiana (for now) and headed on into Missouri, we faced what was billed as the most difficult day of the trip. There had been various flip flops over whether it was worth it, amongst the many different itineraries that had been invented over time. Once 2022 rolled around, the opening of a certain new coaster meant that this was the only way to open a whole world of opportunity.

Also, let’s be honest, it would have sucked to dedicate a whole day to just

Day 5 – Six Flags St. Louis

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Nerves were wracked from the very get go as we arrived extra early to be faced with this. We wanted to allow as much time as possible before park opening to go through whatever rigmarole would be required to once more collect our ‘2020’ season passes that they had promised to honour in 2022. Previous experience with Six Flags had shown that it wasn’t even easy to obtain a normal version in normal times.

We sat here in front of the gate for what felt like far too long as a number of cars gradually stacked up behind us, mentally revving our engines and going over the gameplan a million times. A mere 15 minutes before (10:15) the park itself was due to open (10:30), someone appeared and unlocked this gate so that we could wheelspin over to the parking booths.

There was no time to argue the point over season pass collection with a parking attendant so, wallet $30 lighter, we parked as close as physically possible to the entrance without being ‘preferred’, with the car already pointed towards the exit for a quick getaway.

Security weren’t ready for those of us who had now reached this point so there was a little more kerfuffle before we could walk through the scanners. A man at guest services was at least ready for us as we powered over, brandishing out of date tickets and various emails yet again. He seemed cool with it and set to work generating the passes while I could feel myself already burning. “You picked the hottest day of the year for it”, he remarked. Well, that won’t help matters, but gotta run.

It was all for nothing of course, no sooner than were we through the entrance we were then accosted by another member of security who stated that you can’t get into the park proper for another half an hour (11:00). This left us stranded with nothing but a shop, the entrance plaza, and a sliver of shade to stand around in, mentally revving our engines, going over the gameplan a million times and facing down a man with a baton and litter picker.

Because their lineup is pretty trash, ‘members’ of this particular Six Flags gain a whole 10 minutes of early access past these security guards, a policy I first observed in appalling fashion during my debut with the chain when it spited me walk-on Joker at Discovery Kingdom. Several of these members got ahead of us using this method of course, going on the guy’s first whistle, though the joke was on them because why would they want to rush this park?
Gladiators, you will go on my second whistle. We were off.

It was all for nothing of course as we raced over to Mr. Freeze. Even though we had now been at the establishment for 90 minutes, the park didn’t have the rides ready and open for us anyway by gone 11:00. A surly ride host told us to come back later. So that membership is even more useless now I thought to myself as we passed one particular member already collapsed on a bench from heat exhaustion, probably thinking ‘worth it.’

Alright then, Boss? 38°C and sweating profusely, this wasn’t the time to have poor route planning but we needed to hit these rides at a rate of knots if the day was going to work. Same story at the Boss, come back later. Have a Six Flags day. A Mr. Freeze test train hit the spike once more to tease us at this point and we reached the original conclusion that it all had to begin there. Low capacity, high popularity, oh and the added complexity of it being Megalite’s 1000th coaster meant it had to be at least somewhat impressive.

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The surly staff member was already gone just 5 minutes later and the queue was now open, so what was the point in wasting all that energy? There was no time to wonder. The outdoor queueline was far too long, but then the sheer bliss of aircon hit us in the building. That’s right #1 Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast, you’d better be damn cold.

I like the station track sliding over to the launch, taking your basket of personal belongings with you. There’s a good ominousness to it. Oh yeah, it’s ‘Reverse Blast’ isn’t it. BACKWARDS!!!
S’alright. Positive Gs and sunlight are my main memories from the experience. The spike itself is a strange sensation and the inverted top hat is pretty cool. Better than that Flight of Fear nonsense from a few days prior.

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Soaked up one more brief burst of air-con before we staggered back outside scalded and half blinded onto the spinner, #2 Pandemonium. In our only semi-aware state it had a lot more offer than we gave it credit for, delivering the best spin I’ve ever had on a Gerstlauer and some high speed drops to boot.

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#3 Boss then, now open. The outdoor queueline was even longer, and uphill, with stairs, so we were already half dead upon making it to the station. Awful ride sadly, this CCI layout has so much promise (just look at that photo), but instead the Gerstlauer trains rattle themselves around in poor fashion and grind themselves to a halt at every opportunity in what I assume is an attempt to stop the thing from tearing itself apart. Boss became the joke of the trip, in that everything was always better than it.

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There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself uncomfortably towards a #4 Boomerang, but this was the fate we had chosen. Could be worse. +1.

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The face of the #5 Screamin’ Eagle on the sign for this ride summed up the situation at this point, but the ride was rather decent. Airtime, laterals and just the right amount of shake, rattle and roll. Much like Six Flags America, the surprise best ride in the park is the woodie no one talks about.

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The #6 River King Mine Train had way too many lift hills that led to basically nothing, but the tracking was comedically poor to make up for it. Can’t believe this thing was converted to a stand-up at one point. It didn’t end well.

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The wrong #7 Ninja was as bad as it looked. “Wwwelcome back riders, how was your ride?” “My head hurts.” “Oh, I’m sorry”.

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And we finished the park on the #8 Batman The Ride clone with it’s metal shed station feeling like a furnace. Staff were literally pouring bottles of water over themselves between dispatches to keep themselves going, which wasn’t a great sign.
Ride was running pretty hot itself to be fair and trying to rip my feet right off, which is a great sign.

With that, we had completed the creds in a sliver less than 90 minutes, with the caveat that American Spiter was closed all day. Don’t care, got the clone.

So, Six Flags St. Louis eh? Pretty much what I expected. Some coasters. At least it was quiet.

Having allowed about another hour, which was lost before we started, this put us exactly back on track for a stewing four hour drive to


Worlds of Fun

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I like the balloon.

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Back to back B&M inverts and the right #9 Patriot held it’s own. It had both grace and force with both unusual floaty sections and tight manoeuvres. Kinda reminded me of a mini Pyrenees, which is high praise indeed as that’s most likely my favourite that they’ll ever make by this point.

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Titan Track #10 Timber Wolf was mostly uneventful. Just like I recall from Grizzly at Kings Dominion, those around us were losing their minds over how supposedly rough it was while we were just there, sunglasses on, not caring.

They didn’t let us on Cosmic Coaster sadly, putting it the nice way in that we were ‘too tall’.

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And so we entered one of the worst queues of the trip. I’ll say it again – it was too hot. It hadn’t been quite so bad while we were keeping on the move and feeling like we were achieving things. Everything ground to a halt at #11 Mamba, with some pitiful one train ops. They had a crude sprinkler system set up to spray on the final set of brakes, though it was clearly the wrong set of brakes as they were barely putting any work in when compared to all the sets that preceded them.

We also got queue jumped by an overly large group when their youngest member simply walked in front of us, acting all innocent but knowing full well what they were doing. Then, gradually, every single one of the rest of them passed us as if we didn’t even exist. It made no difference by the time the station was reached anyway as it was a total scrum for any and every row, but it was still too much effort to be dealing with that nonsense.

It’s a shame, I liked Mamba, yet there was no way we could have put up with riding it more than once. These medium Morgans all follow pretty much the same formula and the return run of hills here were particularly triangular, delivering a hilarious and satisfying sequence of float and crunch.

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#12 Prowler was next, now infamous for being difficult to photograph. I also failed in that regard. A solid GCI, not quite as spectacular as we had been treated to the last few days but still above average for me. It’s more twisty and turny, but there was good variety in there and it ran with that concept better than most. We managed a couple of laps on this one before the heat broke it.

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If only to delay the inevitable that we would have to queue for, and ride, a second #13 Boomerang for the day. Even a mere two train wait looked far too unpleasant, but we’d come this far and had to see it through. Eww.

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Which only left us with #14 Spinning Dragons, the second Gerstlauer spinner of the day. Gross Worlds of Fun crowds were back again, this time a guy glued to his phone and ignoring his kids for the duration simply cutting straight past us with no explanation. This time it did make a difference, because capacity, and by this point I was already looking forward to the time we could say ‘we’re not in Kansas any more’.

Ride itself was good again, I’m assuming this is the best layout for the model, can’t think of a better one right now.

And so, success, but at what cost? We were battered and burnt by the end of it, though it was probably still the ideal outcome. It simply would have been too much to spend more than half a day at either of these parks anyway, in the weather conditions we were presented with, and though Worlds of Fun in particular had a pretty strong top three, it wasn’t an overly pleasant place to exist in. Regardless, the extra effort was for a worthy cause later in the trip.

Day 6


USA 06/22 – Holiday World

For 2 years in a row we’d been booked to visit Holiday World during their famous Holiwood Nights, with tales of a trimless Voyage taunting my very soul. Sadly, because of a certain monarch, I was unable to make it happen this time around and we instead ended up with a purely vanilla visit to the park. Tickets had already been refunded at this point, so no issues there at least.

Day 4 – Holiday World

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To make things even more bog standard, we opted to ride the woodies in the recommended order from smallest to largest.

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Which meant beginning with Edgar Allen Poe’s The #1 Raven.
It’s a solid starter pack, I like the look of the building and the big bird judging you from the front of the train. Claims of this being best wooden rollercoaster in the world at one time seem a bit bold, but it’s easily one of the best CCIs I had experienced up until this point.
Decent airtime, excessive laterals, a great setting through the woods and that surprise massive drop halfway through the layout make for a strong introduction to what Holiday World is all about.

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And in keeping with that theme, we grabbed the first of our many free fountain drinks on route to the Legend. Why can’t all parks do this?
But not that net thing, get rid of that.

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Once again the station has charm with a big fancy mural of the headless horseman and the ominous bell ringing upon dispatch of each train. #2 Legend is essentially the same concept as Raven, but a bit bigger. It interacts with the water park, has some freshly reprofiled sections, even more excessive laterals and an eerily similar surprise massive drop halfway through the layout. For all that I’d say it’s the slightly weaker of the two just for the sake of pacing – it drags on a bit unnecessarily towards the end, though still a lot of fun.

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Oh no. I have to say that #3 Voyage was my most anticipated coaster of the trip, if not the entire world, at the moment we arrived on it’s doorstep. No doubt you know I’m a sucker for the Gravity Group and this was the king, right? Right? It hadn’t really sunk in that we were about to embark on this journey even at the point of parking ourselves in the back car and in my head it could only go one of two ways – the best thing they’ve ever made and therefore by default instant top 5 material, or it would Grand National me and I’d hate it.

Oh no. It was neither.

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I knew it from the very second the first drop happened. It didn’t scare me. The best of these absolutely terrify me.
The subsequent two massive ‘airtime’ hills are nothing but a waste of wood, steel and momentum. They had nothing to offer. The following tunnel moment and wild pop out of the seat is cool and what I had expected most of the ride to be, yet it follows that up with a third piece of nothingness.

Things do get more exciting at the far end in the woods, high speed lurches, twists and turns are exactly the formula that makes these things so special to me. For the sake of the ride having such sheer size and length however these are all just a bit drawn out and there’s some deathly suboptimal corners in there. The first return tunnel offers a brief glimmer of hope before the mid course brake run, which of course saps some energy that we can’t afford to lose at this point.

Once again it starts to do the good stuff with several back to back bangers, but then halfway through this it feels like they suddenly realised during the design process that they’ve got an awfully long way to go to get back to the station. The pacing is put on pause once more with some overly underwhelming shallow turns as it continues to thunder back to civilisation.

The big twisty hill at the end of this section is a welcome return to form but I found the ride may as well have ended at this point. Many more corners and plaza dodgings finish the event on the wet blanket that is Orion’s brake run, where I can quote my reaction after the second lap – “nahhhh.”

It’s most certainly a victim of expectation. I give it a good slating because I’m a picky bastard with too many comparisons to draw at the point, yet I don’t dislike the ride by any means. It’s middle of the road for the Gravity Group, which still puts it amongst incredible company, I just guarantee that it could have been so much more. It was a learning experience for me on the day as well as for the manufacturer when they were building it – they got better at what they do over time. This was early days and it already has all the makings of best wooden coaster on the planet. Just cut out all that faff.

So with that dream smashing disappointment out of the way, it was time to head up the hill for the last major cred. I do admire the fact that they have a height checking board for Thunderbird all the way down the bottom to save the short from having to make the journey, it is quite the trek in the heat.

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I then also had to laugh at this starflyer thing which is both shorter than the coaster and the nearest tree. What are you expected to see from it? Bring back the crow’s nest.

Anyway, #4 Thunderbird. S’alright.
It’s an unusual experience to get that launching kick on a B&M wing, though I expected a bit more of a song and dance in the shed to compete with the likes of Baco. The coolest part of the ride for me was the initial inversion, which has an uncharacteristic plunging sensation out of the top if you’re in the right seat.

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From there it’s a bit of meandering and trees, the back to back turnarounds felt a little excessive. I found quite a chunk of the ride missed the mark on the on board visual spectacle that these usually provide, it made me recall Wild Eagle with those fun near misses with it’s own supports amongst gorgeous scenery – this doesn’t do that.

It does near miss a shed near the end with a fun attempt at a twisted airtime hill that sadly doesn’t work, then it ends on the classic and uncomfortable slow inline directly into the brakes.

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With the major coasters now complete it was of course dark ride time. Gobbler Getaway is a load of silly fun in which I’m not sure whether I was relieved or disappointed that you aren’t actually shooting the turkeys. The ‘guns’ are for calling the turkeys back to where you want them and then, spoilers, thanksgiving dinner ends up being pizza. Which I’m perfectly alright with. Ok, maybe not American pizza.

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Last cred in the park is #5 Howler, a Holidog (park mascot) themed Zamperla 80STD, also known as the knee smasher. Gets the job done.

I think it might be for the best that we didn’t get to experience Holiwood Nights, all things considered. We were ‘done’ with this park far quicker than I had ever anticipated. I’m not sure feeling obliged to hang around for two whole days and feigning some enthusiasm for a selection of rides that didn’t turn out to be world class would have been all that beneficial to the cause. The operations were generally and unexpectedly very poor across all the rides during our visit and with the fact that they’ve had to implement measures for reducing the capacity of the special event, there’s every chance it could have been even worse for us.

We did however feel obliged to make the most of our single day ticket and so took another lap of the park and all four of the major coasters, this time sunglasses on, not caring. Opinions were solidified rather than changed in any way and we headed out, satisfied, just before the water park closed and everyone rushed back into the main park.

Day 5


USA 06/22 – Kentucky Kingdom + Beech Bend

I’ve always known Kentucky Kingdom as the place next to a tyre fire, so was surprised and confused to be entering the car park via a big, posh exhibition centre entrance.

Day 3 – Kentucky Kingdom

Once again we arrived early and the first order of business was brandishing various emails and tickets dated from 2020 in the direction of a guest services window. We had originally been booked to come on their special event that coincided with the Holiwood nights weekend, which included free drinks, though this was sadly no longer a thing. This also meant we had paid for two days when we only needed one, but as we’ve learnt already you’ve gotta spend money to make money.

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Our new tickets were located in a secret envelope in a secret box in a secret drawer in the back of an office somewhere and sure enough they got us straight in.

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It was a quiet, murky day and some stuff wasn’t open yet so we ended up on #1 Thunder Run first. I had forgotten this ride exists to be honest, they still have an old woodie here? And two Runs?

Turns out the ride is largely forgettable anyway, though far more substantial in footprint than I had imagined from standing within the structure. Wood, corners, a couple of hills, it had it all.

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#2 Storm Chaser was waiting for us at the back of the park, looking grungy as anything. This is what I had pictured for the park and it didn’t disappoint.

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I think the aesthetic is rather admirable and special in it’s own way, a nice contrast next to poster boys like Wildfire and Hakugei.

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God damn Iron Gwazi is it a good ride too. Flopping out of the seat from the very first moment in that inverted drop before being violently ejected many, many times. It sets out to be an airtime machine and delivers an incredible set of punches. Even the other elements like the overbank had a good sideways kick to them, meaning that they weren’t just filler.

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This wonky sequence of multiple hills is a fantastically vicious pre-finale, though it does sort of run out of things to do through the last corner into the brakes. A little too short to compete with the best of the best, but it’s still an easy top 25 and can sure give the bigger beasts something to sweat about.

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#3 Roller Skater was ready to accept customers and had a really funky beat playing in the station to set the mood.

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Then we got lost trying to avoid the water park in our street shoes in an attempt to find #4 Kentucky Flyer. There it is.

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It’s cute and fun, though not the most potent of these things. I always love a piece of Gravity Group, but this one feels like they tried to do White Lightning over half the track length and it just doesn’t quite carry that physics-defiance, relentlessness and longevity that most of the other baby ones manage so well.

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Things that couldn’t be further from cute and fun – #5 T3. Fair play to the park, they’re on board with the joke as to how bad SLCs are and even hype up the fact in the station.
Far from the worst of these I’ve done so far, but good ride it is not.

We headed over to Lightning Run in anticipation of completing the park in record time, only to discover that the weather had turned against us and it had ceased operation.

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Sure enough, it began to rain almost immediately and we attempted to take shelter in the 5D cinema. This plan failed as we were stranded in the outdoor section of the queue for what felt like an eternity, waiting for the next batch, which may or may not have included a technical breakdown.

Nothing exciting going on in here at all, just something dry to do. They were playing the laziest cut of Ice Age 4D imaginable. I don’t really remember the previous iterations I’ve seen in parks, but surely they weren’t this bad? The preshow is just clips from the film with the dinosaurs in it, with no set up. Then the actual film is just more clips from the same film with no pay off. Stuff happens that doesn’t get concluded, scenes chop and change randomly in an attempt to only have ‘things that work with moving seats’ and I’ve already used too many words on this attraction now.

The rain was only slight at this point, but all the coasters remained down. The Storm Chaser crew stated that their coaster rides just too damn fast in the wet and breaks itself, which I fully believe. Advice outside Lightning Run ranged from “I hear the weather is improving after 5pm” to “We’re not supposed to give any indication of time”.

It wasn’t ideal, but this felt like a good opportunity to continue the round robin of hotel phonecalls. We encountered a new low from one particular staff member who was beyond rude and obnoxious. From the moment she answered the phone there was a combination of an abject lack of care and a paranoid wariness that we were some form of pranksters. It basically boiled down to no, I can’t update your card details, nor can I guarantee your room, nor can I cancel it for you.
“But that’s your job right?”
“Yes, but you go online yourself.”
Needless to say we didn’t stay there.

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Time passed quickly and #6 Lightning Run began cycling to our great relief.
We hopped aboard the weirdly elevated seats and experienced the world’s first Chance Hyper GT-X in all it’s glory.
It’s good. From an off-ride visual it appears to burn through those elements at a blistering speed, though on-board there’s a few less sensations going on than I had perhaps anticipated. The legit airtime hills are great and it’s wonderfully paced, but some of the other moments were a bit of a let down. Nice and unique in any case and I look forward to a resurgence of the model.

With many laps of that under our belt to be sure, it was now a question of how long can we stay with Storm Chaser before we have to tear ourselves away and get some more creds tonight? The answer – quite long, though it helped that it was a walk on.


Beech Bend

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Fortunately our next destination had a time zone change in the right direction to gain a cheeky extra hour of operating day. The park also run a deal where you can get in for extra cheap on a Friday night, which suited us perfectly.

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The reason for the visit of course was the #7 Kentucky Rumbler. Such a good name. Is it king of the Kentuckys?

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Yes it is. GCI man, they got me again, what’s going on?
A curved drop that turns into a violent plummet to start proceedings, backed up by an action packed, airtime filled, rumbling romp of a ride. I loved the perpendicular station flyovers and the fact that it isn’t just 72 corners and crossing points. It tries for other things and delivers them exceptionally well. A surprise hit for sure.

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As importantly, there were +1s to be had in the form of #8 Spinning Out.

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And I did their Haunted House ghost train for ‘research purposes’. Meh.

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Then we got stuck on a block section of the spinning #9 Wild Mouse.
Two engineers appeared at speed in a golf buggy, almost tipping it down a steep grassy bank. The issue was resolved in no time and we were treated to a very slow rendition of the spinning second half, from a standing start. Fresh experience I guess.

A couple more rumbles on the Rumbler were sufficient to see the day out in style, and a successful one too! Kentucky treated us very well.

Day 4


USA 06/22 – Kings Island

Our next day was dedicated to a full 12 (13) hours at the beast that is Kings Island. I had got it into my head over the various years of planning that this might be a tricky one to complete, there’s always a bit of trepidation when you’re staring down 15-odd creds and thinking anything could go wrong at any time.

Day 2 – Kings Island

We arrived nice and early in order to deal with some business, namely picking up our ‘2020’ cedar fair platinum passes that they had kindly offered to honour in 2022 instead. Brandishing various emails and the original tickets, we confused a friendly and helpful member of staff and, miraculously, ended up with exactly what we wanted, parking refund and all.

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Even though the park wasn’t officially open yet, they do let you wander in to wherever you like without any form of batching or rope drop and so we opted to camp out the entrance to #1 Mystic Timbers. It was a rather joyous spectacle, the simplicity of watching several test trains running, a staff member appearing at the entrance at 09:55, getting a phonecall at 09:58 and opening the queue. Just like clockwork, seems rare to find many parks with a performance record like that.

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So at precisely 10:00 we were seated on the first train of the day and ready to find out what’s in that bloody shed. I do have to give credit to the marketing of this ride, that phrase has stuck with me like very little else in the industry and it feels like I’ve been saying it for a lifetime already.

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Before you get there however, there’s some track to negotiate, a surprisingly awesome layout full of high speed, relentless, bumpy, twisty goodness. GCI are back on top form and I can’t emphasise enough how much I’ve missed this. As you hit the brake run hot, some creepy warnings are played over the speaker system warning you not to go in the shed. The announcement breaks up, losing clarity as you head inside. The first half is standard GCI storage shed, but the second half is themed. We were right at the back so couldn’t actually see what was going on, nor hear the little radio that plays one of several old pop songs so it was a little confusing when the rest of the train were seemingly clapping along for no reason. After much suspense, one of several sequences takes place, themed to one of the rides in the park and you’re scared straight back into the station.

All in all I absolutely adored Mystic Timbers. Not only is it amongst the most standout pieces of hardware that the manufacturer has ever pieced together, it has bags of character and charm and I couldn’t really have asked for more. Except maybe fire.

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Headed round to the #2 Beast next to continue on the woodie streak. It was an honour to finally get on this legendary ride and I had no idea what to expect. It’s a laugh.
The freshly reprofiled first drop actually felt quite good but it doesn’t really do a whole lot of significance over the remaining 7000ft. But, over that length, it’s just an all round fun time ‘being’ on an old wooden rollercoaster that isn’t overtly offensive. The trims make me chuckle when they hit in all the places that might have otherwise looked exciting, but I think my favourite moment of the whole thing is the timing of the trains – they blaze past each other at a very specific moment that marks the beginning and end of the ride for each respective group of guests and it’s such an on-board spectacle.

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After thinking a nearby ugly building was Flight of Fear and then discovering that it was just an ugly building, we doubled back to #3 Diamondback. The longer, stadium seated trains on B&M hypers have grown to concern me as I had until this point found them to be unfailingly inferior to the standard design. I think Diamondback managed to buck that trend somewhat, but by no means did I find it spectacular. It’s average, run of the mill at what it does best. Floaty drops, meek airtime, trims that make me chuckle just when it looks like it’s about to get exciting. Slow it down there, you’re having too much fun.

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And so to speed things up, #4 Orion was the obvious next choice. An old technique was reborn on this ride, one that takes me back to the days of the disappointments of X2. ‘Sunglasses on, not caring.’ It will be coming up a lot over the next couple of weeks.

It ain’t no Fury 325, but I still prefer it your average B&M hyper simply for breaking that formula. I’m not big on the sensation of speed as a whole, but at least it feels fast paced and fun, until that same old trim in the same old place on the first airtime hill at least. Just. Design it better. Oh and the brake run being taller than most coasters is a rather facepalm moment too.

The one thing these do have going for them is that they’ve really nailed the giga drop. It both feels huge and it kicks your ass, where other manufacturers have somehow failed.

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Continuing on the theme of failings, #5 Banshee, what the hell was that? One of the last hopes in the world for me to fall back in love with the B&M invert again and it just goes upside down 7 times with a similar sustained force throughout. Sunglasses on, not caring.

The one thing the vest design has going for it is that the seats feel wider and you don’t have to rub sweaty elbows with strangers.


Having made excellent time on what we considered to be the ‘big 5’, it was time to start operation mop-up.

The Bat was spiting. Abandoned, with one train parked on the lift hill. That’s going to stop me having the set of Arrow Suspended coasters at some point (unless they just close it) and I’m significantly bothered by that fact.

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#6 Adventure Express was a thing. The quirky themed lift hill at the end of the layout was an unexpected highlight that led to absolutely nothing.

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#7 Racer was very enjoyable. It felt more powerful and significant than the Kings Dominion equivalent and that endless line of sequential hills is always fun. Suffers from the same issue of you not actually knowing who wins because the trains finish apart from each other, divided by painted walls, but the sheer length of the pre-brake run track with everyone just wobbling in a straight line for 15 unchanging seconds had me in stitches.
Of course we immediately went round again for the #8 other track.

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#9 Flight of Fear was awful. There’s more to see in the queue than the KD counterpart but it went on forever and then the ride was running really, really poorly. Ruined the reputation of this attraction for me, as is the job of a good clone.

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All the other queues for stuff we needed, but didn’t really want, were starting to look bad now. Grabbed a snack and headed into #10 Backlot Stunt Coaster. It’s more nicely presented than the KD equivalent (that’s 3 now) but the special effects part still didn’t work, nor did it have the comedy of someone in the train reacting to that fact.

What else have they got? I’m struggling to rattle them off in my head now.

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#11 Woodstock Express. It was a bonus just to be able to get on it, and for it to not have the 90 minute queue that was stated on the app (trying to scare us off I feel).

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#12 Invertigo. Worldwide set complete, now let’s never speak of it again.

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The Eiffel Tower was open, unlike the KD equivalent (4). I did have to laugh when the lift operator said it’s an exact replica of the real thing. Despite the fact it’s a different colour, size and shape.

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Good views though.

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And we saved the worst til last. #13 Flying Ace Aerial Chase was a total travesty in every conceivable way. Sunburn, heat exhaustion, terrible capacity, medics were called to the station, a ridiculous safety announcement that tells you ‘not to stand up’ on a suspended coaster and an awful ride that manages to bang your head at under 10Mph. I was lined up to see a perfect shot of a small child taking the restraint directly to the jaw on one particular transition. Sign of a quality product.

Chores successfully completed, back to the good stuff.

Mystic Timbers had developed a fairly hefty queue, but it was worth the wait of course.

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Orion’s queue had also got a little larger, this time we got to queue through the theming, which was nice to see.

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Couldn’t be bothered to queue for anything else, so gave the shed one more go as the sun was going down. This time the wait had some great comedy in the form of a bunch of teens deciding to alter the distribution of large quantities of small rocks within the queueline. PASS IT BACK, PASS IT BACK, PASS IT BACK! Everyone got involved. Who needs queueline TVs.

Night had fallen and the ride was hauling so hard it made a noise I’ve never heard GCIs make before. The wheels (either sidestop, upstop, or both) were literally screeching with force and excitement, what an incredible ride. Also 3 different laps, 3 different monsters.

But of course night falling can mean only one thing in this park. Even the op box says it on a sticker. The legendary Beast night ride. We sprinted into the queue just before park close, having only just discovered that there was in fact a firework and drone show on that night (and every night with a 10pm close, to celebrate their 50th anniversary). This meant the only way to ride it involved having to watch the spectacle while standing in the queue, at which point the ride was temporarily shut down for the display.

Some technical faff later, the ride suddenly starting chewing through the queue at an extremely impressive rate. We ended up amongst the last few trains and were treated to a fantastic atmosphere with cries of BEAST, BEAST, BEAST, BEAST! on all sides.

It’s not going to be making any waves, but I get it, it’s just one those things you have to do some time. The tunnels and laterals felt all the more brutal in the darkness and another train of ghostly figures screaming down the first drop towards us as it all came to an end was quite the moment.

Kings Island then, what a park. I’ve never felt particularly positive or negative about a Cedar Fair establishment before. Things have changed.

Day 3


USA 06/22 – Kennywood

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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#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.

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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.

Day 2


USA 06/22 – Travel

You’d think 2 and a half years of preparation for a trip would make things run smoother. It did not.

This was the life changing, Cedar Pointing, US Beast of a Voyage that I once had planned out for 2020 and that was, of course, cancelled later that same year, giving birth to the epic Eurodemption #1. Our determination to make it happen at all costs saw it re-booked and re-cancelled a further three times throughout 2021 while the indecision over entry requirements remained firmly in place, leading to the excessive Eurodemption #2. By the time 2022 rolled around I had gone over this route plan in so many iterations that it was now firmly etched onto my retinas – there will be no Ange-Michels this time I can assure you, this was Ameridemption and it was going to be amazing. Once the flood gates had been opened once more, the trip finally happened, and immediately went wrong.

Day 0 – Travel

After arriving at Heathrow earlier than ever before, we took our then mandatory covid test and proceeded to check in the bags at a very comfortable time frame. I had noticed during this process that a few of the escalators were closed off, only to assume they were broken. This was in fact to filter everyone down to a single entry point for access up to the next floor where security takes place. On this floor were cattlepen queues as far as the eye could see which, although they looked grim, flowed rather well. After a reasonable 40 minutes or so, by no means the shortest wait of the trip and definitely not the longest, we arrived at the scan your boarding pass barrier. The barrier said no.

According to differing stories from various parties this was either an outright system fault, or an arbitrary feature that (incorrectly) determines ‘whether you’ll make the plane or not from this point’, even though we still had well over an hour at this moment in time. Regardless, the staff at these barriers have no power to override the system and were unable to help in any way. We were scooted to one side by some other airport staff into a small group of other travellers with the same issue. Apparently they were going to ask our airline to grant permission for a visual check in order for us to bypass the barriers. American Airlines said no.

The airport staff then suggested that we all head back downstairs to the airline check in desk to sort this issue out with them ourselves. We did so, only to find that the desks were entirely abandoned and there were no airline staff available to assist. After being shouted at, and subsequently ignoring another airport staff member who was insisting that we had to go through the queue again, we found the upstairs staff once more and relayed the fact that the airline were MIA. This confused them, as they had supposedly just spoken to them and they were now at a loss as to what to do. As were we all.

Suddenly the very man who had checked our bags in appeared at speed and began to argue our case with the barrier staff, who suddenly looked terrified at the sight of our group determinedly pouring straight towards them. We were manually let through with the ‘visual check’ and assured by the airline staff member that “once you’re confirmed to be past this barrier on the system, you will make your plane”, which I can only assume meant we would soon get those announcements over the speakers saying hurry up Mr. Slow, we’re holding up this flight for you.

Security itself with all the trays and scanners was actually operating at the highest capacity I’ve ever seen it, which is strange considering the queues are so bad right now. The sudden increase in demand must be insane. We made it through there very quickly to then see the sign that gave us the good news that our gate was as far away as it could physically be, at what was suggested to be a 30 minute walk. Those barriers clearly underestimate our speed as, along with a few of the others, we sprinted it in under 5. Only to arrive at the gate and see one of the same staff members already there shrugging and saying the gate’s closed mate.

To this day I don’t fully understand how the time sink happened or how seemingly most of the rest of the passengers ever made the plane in the first place, unless 90% of those were from connecting flights. Our little group of stragglers from the barrier incident had all felt that they were way ahead of schedule at every step of the process until the mishap occurred and now here we were looking at a plane that was fully prepared to leave without us. All forms of protest were in vain and a high up member of staff approached us to diffuse the situation. “Guys, there’s nothing we can do to get you on this plane, but don’t worry. We have hundreds of flights leaving for the US today and we will get you on one of them, 110%. Go to our ticket rebooking desk right now and they’ll sort you out” Fearing a repeat of the check in desk incident from earlier, we pressed further and specifically asked if anyone was actually at that desk and whether they were aware that we would be coming. The answer was yes.

Once we had manouevred through the various back alleys of the airport that led us to said desk, during which we managed to lose at least half the group, we arrived to see two staff members who had no idea that we were coming. One was under training and the other was seconds away from leaving for the day. A strongly worded phonecall was made, presumably back to the guy we had just spoken to, to the tune of why have you done this? and I need to go home now. All credit to her though, she stayed on and helped us in our time of need.

The options were nowhere near as vast as had been promised, particularly as it was supposedly now our fault that the airport was useless and the airline shouldn’t have to compensate for that. Option one was the April Orlando special – come back 24 hours later for the same flight to Philadelphia, oh and we won’t pay for a hotel. a) we aren’t losing a day of our holiday and b) we live here. Option two was an 18-hour overnight flight with a layover in Los Angeles (so the complete opposite end of the country). A simple “no” was sufficient to shoot that one down and arouse a long overdue smattering of laughter amongst our fellow passengers.

I was straight with her about our own situation at this point – we’re driving to Pittsburgh tonight so you can dump us anywhere in the Eastern US TODAY and we’ll be out of your hair. (Fun aside, we would have been flying straight to Pittsburgh had this been 2020 and they hadn’t cancelled that route since covid). A plane leaving for New York in 3 hours soon had our name on it, but it was in a different terminal and we’d have to queue for security again.
We took a bus to T5 and once more found ourselves in a massive line that this time had various artistic murals of empty water bottles seemingly set up in protest throughout all the temporary barriers that held everyone in place. During this wait we had to make an urgent phonecall in order to rebook our car hire, seeing as we were now going to be arriving into a different city.

Fair play to BA this time, as we had a flight + car booking and they could already see on their system that we had been rerouted, they were happy to oblige, no fuss. We were given an email address and the personal mobile number of an agent in an office in Crawley and instructed to explain our situation via email and text in order to get the quickest response possible. By the time we made it to the gate, which hadn’t been closed in our face, we received a call back from an extremely helpful person who moved our car hire, no questions asked, and delivered the wonderful news that it was now in fact £500 cheaper for us. Ordeal = profit, apparently.

The flight itself passed without much event. I won Who Wants to be a Millionaire (a tradition on planes which I’ve now managed to keep since January 2020), watched a Korean action film and tolerated what some would call food. Soon we found ourselves at JFK, which turned out to be ridiculously quiet, ready for a fight with Avis, the very car hire company that had tried to scam us just a couple of months ago. Though media has tried to teach me things about New Yorkers, they were totally solid and the whole process was so much better than it had been in Miami. Just like 3 years prior we were given El Toro: the car (a Kia Soul), though sadly not in the correct colour this time.

Thankfully JFK isn’t how I pictured it either and doesn’t dump you into 6 lanes of yellow cabs honking their horns and not moving, so we managed to escape the clutches of the city in no time at all and begin the, more arduous than initially intended, first long drive of the trip.

Our estimated arrival time was well past 2am at this point and that was without factoring in a stop for food. Having been stung in the past by American hotels who arbitrarily decide (just like those barriers) that you’re too late and not going to arrive after a certain time in the evening, lie about trying to contact you and then kindly cancel your room without notice, we called ahead to the establishment in order to let them know how late we were running. We’re not out of the woods yet.

The guy we spoke to said that it was fine for us to turn up at whatever time, however he had already cancelled our room without notice because they had checked the credit card details earlier and they weren’t valid. Oh and he lied about trying to contact us. So here was the situation – I had booked almost every hotel on this road trip back in January for the sake of forward planning and cost saving. The credit card which I had used expired at the end of April and both of the systems I used for the bookings had a method for updating your card details against each one. When my new card sprang into action at the beginning of May, I went online and updated these details accordingly. Clearly this didn’t work and now not only did we not have a hotel for the first night, we potentially didn’t have one for any of the rest of the trip because we had to assume they will all be this useless and silently bail on us at any given moment.

It was at this point we stopped for both food and a minor mental breakdown about why nothing works any more. There was no point in pressing on to what would now likely be a 3am arrival at a hotel that had already spited us, for a worse deal than originally planned. We could just continue the long drive in the morning. I instead managed to find what looked like a last minute steal on a 2 bedroom suite that just so happened to border Hersheypark. A phonecall was made in order to make sure they could accommodate us arriving late. We were assured that the receptionist would be there waiting for us.

They weren’t, but an envelope and key with my name on it was waiting on the desk when we got there. I can only look back and laugh at how gone we were by this point as I recall simply standing in the road in the middle of the night for a good 10 minutes and staring at a sign with what appeared to be a ‘no parking’ symbol above where I had parked the car, in what was a clearly marked parking space. I suppose they can’t crush our car into a cube, it already is one. The room key was marked with a number 2, but the hotel was comprised of several different buildings, so we then spent a further 10 minutes wandering up and down in a daze, trying all the wrong rooms also marked 2, at great personal risk. Finally finding where we supposed to be, up a rickety outdoor wooden staircase, I discovered our actual quarters also had a door down to a basement pulled straight out of a horror movie. I smiled to myself briefly, thinking of all the things that could still go wrong at this point, up to and including death by phantom, locked the door again and promptly passed out.

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Well we weren’t due there for at least another two weeks, but at least we could look at rollercoasters from the window in the morning, how many can you spot?
Oh right, rollercoasters. Well that will just have to wait until next time.

Day 1