"Having fun on the coaster, Harry?"
Admission w/discount: $23.95 (ouch!)
Today's greeters: Scooby & Astro
Could they make the damn music (in the entrance plaza and along Interntional Street) any louder???
RACER: Still needs its trains restored.
Running better than last October. I can hardly fit into the seat on this one. I did notice something interesting...there is a trim brake on the turnaround, but it operates a little differently from other trim brake calipers I have seen. Normally, the brake is held closed and opened after the train slows to the desired speed. But on Racer, the brake is wide open as the train approaches and grabs holdon about the fourth car. I think I understand why...fin brake calipers must be used on straight track, which means that the caliper must be located between the hill peak and the start of the turnaround curve. This means that when the pilot car hits the brake, the back cars haven't yet come up the hill. To brake the front of the train at that point is to invite disaster, particularly if the train is back-end heavy. But by the time the last car reaches the brake, the whole train is heading downhill and around the turnaround curve. Neat idea. The only problem is that there is a chance of the caliper missing the train completely...but then the Racer ran for many years with no brake on that turnaround, so that shouldn't be a problem.
Capacity: 1161 pph (one side...it was not racing)
Still a very good Runaway Train with a lousy ending. I paid at the front gate![Footnote 1] I really like this one...well, except for that finish.
Capacity: 1479 pph
Top Gun: Still runs well - Way too short, though. I have ridden three Arrow suspended coasters...this one, Iron Dragon, and Big Bad Wolf. Top Gun I think shows the real weakness of Iron Dragon. Iron Dragon's problem is that the ride focuses too heavily on the banked turns and the swinging action, but lacks big, straight, "so-this-is-it-we're-going-to-die" drops. Top Gun, on the other hand, features that sort of long, gently swooping drop, meaning that it gives a much more coaster-like ride.
I noticed that the chassis and wheel assembly on Top Gun is completely different
from the one used on Iron Dragon. The wheel carrier assembly on Top Gun is much
simpler than the arrangement used on Iron Dragon.
Capacity: 988 pph
The Outer LIMits: Flight of Fear
Anyone who thinks this is "rough" is hereby sentenced to a ride on Vortex. Further evidence that this ride should not have over-the-shoulder bars is offered by the fact that there is not enough clearance between the bars for two people to stick their arms through. On a positive note, the new padding on the bars is a lot better than the old stuff. There is actually room to stick your head in between the bars. It's actually a lot like the bars on the Vekoma SLC's with the awful pillows, but with more space left for your head.
This one had a full holding queue outside, with QTV blaring full blast (I can watch TV at home. Why must I endure it in the park where I am trying to talk coasters?). But once inside the "hangar", the queue rails were all blocked off with a short path to the "spacecraft". The problem was that anyone who had not seen the video pre-show last season didn't even get a chance at it. Hey, PKI...Why not open the INSIDE queue first so that riders can actually see the pre-show? Maybe they were catering to the desires of the many obnoxious smokers in line...
They were assigning seats, and for my first Outer Limits ride of the day, I sat in Row #3. Later in the day, I requested...and got...a front seat ride. Interesting, I received less head-banging in the third seat than I did up front...my guess is that in the third seat, I was able to see what the pilot car was doing and subconsciously react accordingly. The trackwork on TOL:FOF is glass-smooth, and incredibly twisted. There are correspondents here who have complained of excessive light on the ride; I must respectfully disagree. While the moderate illumination may detract from the illusion of flying through outer space, it also makes Outer LIMits a better *coaster* by providing it with some truly eye-popping visual effects in the spaghetti bowl. Specifically, you get to see exactly how twisted the track is, which makes it that much more disorienting.
Although the trains are improved from last season, TOL:FOF retains its top position on my list of Coasters which Desperately Need Lap Bars Instead Of Shoulder Bars.
Dispatch/Capacity: Every time I tried to time a dispatch interval, there was some kind of platform delay, so I don't have numbers on this one.
In the Outer LIMits section, I stated that "Anyone who thinks this [Outer LIMits] is 'rough' is hereby sentenced to a ride on Vortex." Now might be a good place to explain that remark. The trackwork on Vortex is not nearly as smooth as that on TOL:FOF. From time to time, you can feel the guide wheels bumping against the track, owing to the Vortex train's rigid axle construction. So a ride on Vortex is *bumpier*...by far...than a ride on TOL:FOF. At the same time, I had no trouble with head-thwacking on Vortex, as opposed to TOL:FOF where I got off with very sore ears. I think this brings up a critical difference between the two rides. On Vortex, I can ride in relative comfort because my head extends well above the overhead bar assembly. Even though Vortex generates considerable upper-body lateral motion, the design of the car means that there is nothing for the head to actually hit, so the ride is mostly headache-free.
Anyway, Vortex is a rough ride, but it is also a lot of fun. I suspect that Arrow might have used it as an "inversions catalogue"...with two vertical loops, a full Boomerang, and a full Corkscrew...not to mention a snappy helix...Vortex has a little of everything...and a cool blue/orange paint job. Oh...Notice how the station has notches in the end wall to accommodate the overhead track from the Bat.
Dispath interval 1:08, which yields a barely acceptable capacity of 1,482 PPH.
It is arguably the most over-rated coaster in North America these days, which is a crying shame because the ride has a promising profile and a lot of potential. But it has problems. Starting with the train. Thanks to the top half of the seat divider, I hardly fit into the seat; thanks to the high seat backs, the view...which is really half the ride...is really pretty awful if you aren't in Seat #1. Then there is the ride itself. If you like skid brakes, then the Beast is the ride for you. To PKI's credit, they are still skid brakes...probably enough of them to supply all of the coasters in Ohio that have been converted to fin brakes. Brakes on the first drop (Hello? What's the point of that?); brakes on the top of the second hill; brakes on the mid-course block brake. There are also three sections of brakes on the drop from the second lift into the helix, but the linings there appeared to be rusted which suggests that those were disabled.
The ride tracks quite well, and gives a nice smooth ride (or maybe it just seemed that way because the train was sliding over the brakes...) for a wood coaster. Another problem is the combination of an overly-conservative station blocking program and a slow platform crew. The Beast is about a 4:00 ride. It was designed to run four trains (with blocks for station, lift 1, trim shed, lift 2, and a set of ready brakes) and now runs only three. That should leave plenty of time to load the train. But PKI can barely manage a 2:42 dispatch interval, which works out to an abysmal 800 PPH. Later in the day, the crew got tired and the interval jumped to 3:03, which is only 708 PPH. That is inexcusable for a signature ride at a major themer.
One interesting thing was how often the "Rollercoaster" references
kept popping up. The person I was with kept pointing out the differences between
PKI and PKD; when we ascended the Eiffel Tower, I remarked that I needed a radio
and a pair of binoculars. Then, while waiting on the Beast platform we spotted
a person we nicknamed "Harry Calder." Okay, so he was carrying a black
sample case rather than a goldenrod Samsonite. And of course we were in the
wrong park. But the name still stuck. Too bad he was three trains ahead of us...I'd
have asked if he was having fun on the coaster and suggest that he ride it again.
Dispatch Interval: 2:42
Capacity: 800 pph
It was way too cold to ride this one, but it was running, and we watched it a while while finishing Cokes on the way to Top Gun. In fact, 'Harry' was 'inspecting' (watching, not riding) it at that time. But I did take a timing:
Dispatch Interval: 1:05
Capacity: 1107 pph
Not only was King Cobra still present in the park...it was *operating*! In fact, it was running two trains! It is actually a pretty good ride. It's no Banshee, but it has some fun elements. Unfortunately, it also has really crummy trains. First of all, big Americans like me really don't fit very well, and second, they have an unfinished look to them. I guess I'm just spoiled by Mantis:TCFKAB.
(in my past six visits to PKI, this is only the second during which King Cobra was not out of service all or most of the day)
Dispatch interval: 1:42
When was the last time you saw a junior coaster with a control computer (and PTC fin brakes) running two trains? On a 0:59 ride? With kids who have never been on a coaster before, and parents who haven't seen traditional lap bars in so long that they have forgotten about "push forward, then pull back"? Well, the Beastie has all of that. It is essentially a mirror image of John Allen's first three coasters, but with the curved loading platform straightened out. Like it's papa the Beast, it has a dark head-chopping tunnel. Like the Racer, it even has a little hint of air-time...even an itty-bitty double-dip. And with an advancing wheel at the downtrack end of the station, it even has a launch from the station which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the launch on Outer LIMits. The train is a traditional junior train, complete with flanged wheels. What I want to know is why this coaster is not listed as an ACE Coaster Classic! Well, whatever you call it, the Beastie is a lot of fun. It also has a really cute logo...just like the Beast logo, but without the chains or sharp claws. 8-)
In all, it was a pretty good day. A few TPM problems here and there, and they really need to get their act together where capacity is concerned. But one pleasant surprise was that PKI seems to have most of the technical bugs worked out even though it is only the second day of the regular season. It's going to be a good summer down there.
Footnote 1: For those of you who have not ridden Adventure Express, as you climb the second lift, the idol at the top of the lift says, "You have disturbed the forbidden temple; NOW YOU WILL PAY!!!" Then, as you leave the lift, you drop about 18" (yes, inches), head around a sharp right-hand turn...and stop on the transfer table outside the unloading platform. [Return to text]
Next trip: Cedar Point (#1)
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--Dave Althoff, Jr.