Note: I had a trip report nearly written, but my palmtop suffered a catastrophic failure today (note: "Psion 3a" and "rainstorm" is not a good combination). So this is a reconstruction, and not nearly as coherent as I had intended. --DCAjr.
"You're not going in there again?!"
Let me introduce you to two people. Their names are Chris and Cara. Chris is my younger brother, and Cara is his girlfriend. They are not park enthusiasts the way that I am. But they really like Kennywood. They live about a mile from me [Footnote 1], and Chris grew up going to Cedar Point every year as I did. When I made my first visit to Kennywood, Chris came along, and he liked it so much that he has come with me every year since.
Anyway, the three of us piled into the car and made the 200-mile drive to Kennywood. For me, this was a really long day because we wouldn't dare leave Kennywood before closing...and who knows when that will be! [Footnote 2]
We arrived at Kennywood at about 1:30pm, and ended up parking at the far end of the lower parking lot. This meant that we spent a lot of time walking through that lot...I only visited Kennywood once before they took out the old "Steel Phantom" gate (where the Lost Kennywood entrance is now), but I really do miss that one! Anyway, the park was moderately crowded (I have seen it a lot worse), with moderate waits for most of the rides. Our longest wait was about 45 minutes for Pitt Fall, which we all agreed was an awesome ride. Not awesome enough for another 45 minute wait, but awesome just the same.
We spent a lot of time riding Cara's favorite flat ride, the Kangaroo (Aeroaffiliates Flying Coaster). Well, not a lot of time, but I found myself examining it very carefully and noticing how much some of the components reminded me of a particular Octopus. This became more obvious to me several days later when I found out that Aeroaffiliates apparently built that ride on a Fly-O-Plane center. Now I know I must get up to Whalom and ride that Fly-O-Plane up there so I can compare the two. 8-) If you are not familiar with the Flying Coaster, it is really quite simple. There are eight wide tubs (can easily seat four adults) attached to the ends of eight wide sweeps. Each tub rides on a single wheel, which rolls on a track. A support arm runs from the tub end of the sweep to the center of the ride; the arm has a pneumatic piston in the middle. The track is flat, except for a short section in front of the operator. Here, the track ramps up about 6' into the air, then abruptly stops with a cliff. The cars ride up the ramp, then literally fall over the edge. The pneumatic cylinder slows the descent so that the ride center makes about a half revolution (at full speed) before the wheel hits the track. A very simple idea, but a really fun ride with a nice combination of airtime and lateral force as you go flying over the edge.
Another really neat ride at Kennywood is their Zierer Flying Carpet. This is easily the most violent ride in the park (except perhaps the Steel Phantom). It is a platform mounted on four support arms which rotate simultaneously in a circle. Riders are seated facing the center of the platform, looking in the plane of rotation (i.e. looking parallel to the front of the ride, as on a Huss Pirat). This noisy but tame-looking ride jerks passengers around in a vertical circle, providing very powerful vertical and 'surge' forces. I've seen more stuff come flying off of this ride than perhaps any other in the park.
Another ride not to be missed is the Tumble Bug, one of only three in regular operation, and the only one I have actually ridden. We did this one late, and actually were the only people on it at the time. But while the Tumble Bug is a "don't miss" attraction, we were less than impressed with the Gold Rusher and Le Cachot dark rides, and skipped them. We also avoided the long wait for Noah's Ark, though I am going to have to get in there sometime. I never did see the old one. We also failed to ride the Traver Auto Ride, but we have ridden it in the past, and it is well worth a visit. Instead, we took our first ever ride on the train, which has a few interesting sights.
Of course, what we were really at Kennywood to ride were the roller coasters. We started with the Jack Rabbit. I noticed that Jack Rabbit has a new fence around the station curve...black iron with rabbit-shaped cutouts on top. Such a pity that the vandals have found that fence such an appealing target, because it really is quite a nice fence. What can I say about Jack Rabbit that you don't already know? It is a true classic coaster, with a wonderfully smooth ride and a suprisingly strong double-dip. I only hope that Kennywood can keep it running for a long time to come...and judging from its condition on this visit, that won't be difficult.
From there it was on to the Racer. This coaster is under-appreciated, I think, but it too is a John Miller classic (though not an ACE Coaster Classic due to seat dividers on the PTC trains). It is a fun ride (and after all, that is what coasters are about!), but I noticed that the Pittsburghers are not so much into the hand-slapping and train-to-train interaction that I am accustomed to with Cedar Point's Gemini. Trivia bit: The Kennywood Racer happens to be the coaster depicted in blueprint form on the opening screens of Disney's Coaster. The turnaround curve over the station is a dead giveaway. Speaking of that turnaround, the station is a beautiful design, with an arched truss roof. There are no support pillars holding the roof up in the middle. Of course, that is less obvious because there are support pillars going *through* the roof to support the turnaround track.
We were supposed to have a fourth person with us on our trip, but she bailed out at the last moment. This caused us a little trouble when we went to ride the next coaster, the Thunderbolt. This one is still a little rough in the first dip (from the station into the ravine), but it is a lot smoother than it was last year. As usual, this coaster delivers an amazing ride. It is one of my favorite wood coasters, but it loses points because I can only ride it half as often as I would like. I wonder...if I were to win one of those oversize plush aliens, could I use it as a riding partner on Thunderbolt?
At this point, it was time to get a spot of lunch. Here I witnessed something amazing. Across from the carousel, Kennywood has a food stand. Actually, several food stands. One serves fantastic Belgian waffles (with ice cream and strawberry topping...absolutely wonderful); another serves <ick> frozen yogurt, and the last serves hamburgers. In the middle of the pavilion, there is a condiment bar with sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, diced onions, and the other usual stuff. I ordered a cheeseburger, then walked over to dress it up. The condiment bar was absolutely spotless. Not a crumb, not an onion chunk, not a tomato seed...NOTHING spilled or out of place. Folks, this is an amazing achievement for anyone...I mean, Fuddrucker's (expensive hamburger restaurant with a comparable, but more extensive, condiment bar) can't manage to do that. I didn't see the park employee who was obviously taking care of that station, but whoever it was, he (or she) was doing a remarkable job of it!
We headed over to the Log Jammer (Arrow flume) and had our one unpleasant experience of the day. The three of us are all moderate-size adults (I am the largest of our group), and the three of us would be a full load for one of the flume boats. But, the operator has a sign and a policy clearly stating, "Four or five per boat." We were trying to figure out why. To keep the capacity up? But the ride was a walk-on. Certainly not because Arrow recommends it; the three of us would be a good sized load. But instead of allowing us to enter a boat, the operator held us back, and searched (almost in vain) for one or two people to join us. This turned out to be a serious mistake. She found a man and his son. The five of us shoehorned ourselves into the boat with great difficulty, and were dispatched on our way. We immediately knew there was a problem. Kennywood's flume is properly filled with lots of water so that the boats can float. But our boat contained by our estimate more than 800 pounds of people. Our boat didn't float. It sank. We took on water over the side through the entire ride. We were drenched by the time we reached the lift. At a couple of points, I was sure we were going to hang up. Water was over the seat bench by the time we got back to the station. Our next stop was the Guest Relations office. I will be interested to see if the policy has been made less rigid the next time I visit. The response I got from Kennywood (refer to "Kudos to Kennywood") indicated that just might happen where adult riders are concerned. The trouble is, this is the kind of incident that can, if you aren't careful, ruin your whole day.
Note: For the 1998 season, the Log Jammer seating policy was, in fact, changed. Small children have to ride in full boats, but loads of adult riders may now be seated in any sane arrangement.
From that point, we pretty much avoided the water stuff. We rode the Muzik Express, where I noticed an interesting maintenance tactic. The ride has several electric motors mounted on the sweeps. These motors are connected via several drive belts to a traction wheel that runs on the track beneath the ride. Kennywood has done something smart: There is a full set of spare drive belts ty-wrapped to each of the motor sweeps. That probably saves them a lot of hassle in maintaining that ride!
We continued into Lost Kennywood, where we rode Pitt Fall, and Chris and I rode the Roll-O-Plane. I had never ridden one before, and I had promised that I would try it out. It really is a neat ride, not nearly as bad as I expected. I suppose that a skilled rider might be able to get a similar ride action out of a Skydiver, but so far I have not had any desire to try that one. Maybe next time I go to Lakemont.
As evening fell, Chris and I indulged in Belgian Waffles, and we all took more rides on the Jack Rabbit, Racer, and Thunderbolt. Last year, Chris and Cara were both so badly beaten up by the Steel Phantom that I couldn't talk them into riding it, and I wasn't devastated at missing it myself. By the time we left, the music was playing (Wouldn't it be neat if they sold a copy of that tape in the gift shop?), and we were ready for the five hour drive back home. Or rather I was ready for the five-hour drive back home...my passengers preferred to sleep during that trip. Ah, well, at least I have a working tape player...maybe I should have dug out the band organ tape...
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Footnote 1: Or at least they did at the time. They are now married and living in Portland, Oregon, some 3,000 miles from me. [Back to text]
Footnote 2: One of the best kept secrets in the amusement industry is Kennywood's closing time tonight. [Back to text]
Next trip: Camden Park
1997 Trip Report index
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--Dave Althoff, Jr.